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PLoS One





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Spatial cognition in females and males can differ in species in which there are sex-specific patterns in the use of space. Brown-headed cowbirds are brood parasites that show a reversal of sex-typical space use often seen in mammals. Female cowbirds, search for, revisit and parasitize hosts nests, have a larger hippocampus than males and have better memory than males for a rewarded location in an open spatial environment. In the current study, we tested female and male cowbirds in breeding and non-breeding conditions on a touchscreen delayed-match-to-sample task using both spatial and colour stimuli. Our goal was to determine whether sex differences in spatial memory in cowbirds generalizes to all spatial tasks or is task-dependant. Both sexes performed better on the spatial than on the colour touchscreen task. On the spatial task, breeding males outperformed breeding females. On the colour task, females and males did not differ, but females performed better in breeding condition than in non-breeding condition. Although female cowbirds were observed to outperform males on a previous larger-scale spatial task, males performed better than females on a task testing spatial memory in the cowbirds' immediate visual field. Spatial abilities in cowbirds can favour males or females depending on the type of spatial task, as has been observed in mammals, including humans.


e-Publication Number: e0128302

PMID: 26083573

Western Libraries Open Access Fund recipient.

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