Social experience, vocal learning and social cognition in theEuropean starling, Sturnus vulgaris

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Science Article 10


European starlings are well known for their rich and varied social life. Recent studies reveal a social organizationbased on same-sex preferences, spatial proximity and vocal sharing in captive groups. Much less is known about socialcognition and the possible role of social experience on the development of cognitive abilities. Experimental results describedhere show how the social conditions under which starlings are raised affect not only the quality of vocal copying (for the sameauditory experience), but also perception of mirror images, relationships to people and organization of neuronal selectivity inthe brain. Thus hand-raised birds placed either in groups with adults, or in pairs as young naive birds, or in isolation, react verydifferently when confronted with familiar or unfamiliar humans. Intraspecific social experience, therefore, influences therelationships of birds with their environment, including interspecific interactions. Different modalities are involved and includethe visual and auditory worlds, as revealed by a mirror test and electrophysiology respectively..

Martine Hausberger, Laurence Henry, Hugo Cousillas, Maryvonne Mathelier, Marie Bourjade, Acta Zoologica Sinica 52(Supplement): 618-621, 2006

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