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Jackdaws will ditch friends to gain food, study finds
The jackdaws ditched 'friends' for food, but always stuck with family.
They switch friends for food, but stick with family.

A study has found that jackdaws will ditch their old friends, if it helps them get food as a reward.

The research, conducted by the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol, investigated the wild jackdaws’ response to a task in which access to mealworms depended on who visited the feeder.

The study, led by Dr Michael Kings and Dr Josh Arbon, assigned the birds two groups, A or B, and programmed two tag-detecting feeders so that they would only provide mealworms when individuals of the same group visited the feeder.

The jackdaws soon discovered that sticking with members of their own group would get them better food, and therefore ditched their old ‘friends’ from the other group.

However, they always stuck with their offspring, siblings and mating partners, no matter what the outcome.

The investigation, supervised by Professor Alex Thornton, forms part of the Cornish Jackdaw Project and offers new insight into how jackdaws approach individual decision-making and social relationships.

The results suggest that wild jackdaws will favour friendships with ‘compatible’ group members, which offer the best return from foraging. However, change in social structure was limited as they also preserved pre-existing relationships.

Dr Kings, from the University of Exeter, said: “These results have important implications for our understanding of the evolution of intelligence as they show that being able to track and remember information about social partners can bring benefits.”

Dr Arbon, from University of Bristol, added: “Our findings also help us to understand how societies emerge from individual decisions. The balance between strategically playing the field for short-term benefits and investing in valuable long-term partners ultimately shapes the structure of animal societies, including our own.”

The research team also included the University of Konstanz, and was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The full study can be found in the journal Nature Communications.

Image © Shutterstock

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VMG president joins House of Lords

News Story 1
 Miles Russell, president of the Veterinary Management Group (VMG), has been elected to the House of Lords as a crossbench hereditary peer.

He will join Lord Trees as a representative of the veterinary sector in the second chamber of the UK parliament.

Lord Russell said: "Those of us working in the animal health and veterinary sectors are only too aware of the importance of the work we do and the challenges we face.

"I will use my platform in the House of Lords to increase understanding of our sectors and to promote positive change." 

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News Shorts
Sixth case of bluetongue confirmed

A sixth case of bluetongue virus serotype 3 has been confirmed in the UK.

The case was detected in an animal on a premises linked to one of the farms within the Temporary Control Zone (TCZ) currently in place near Canterbury, Kent.

In response, the Animal and Plant Health Agency has extended the TCZ. Investigations into the spread of the disease are ongoing.

The cases in Kent come at a time when a new strain of the virus has spread rapidly across farms in the Netherlands. Both the Government and the British Veterinary Association have urged livestock keepers to remain vigilant.

Bluetongue is a notifiable disease and suspected cases must be reported immediately on 03000 200 301 in England or 03003 038 268 in Wales. In Scotland, possible cases should be reported to the local field services office.