Aïcha Mohamed Benkada



Thesis: Social strategies in rooks (Corvus frugilegus)

Supervisor: Valérie DUFOUR


My main goal in my thesis is to determine how rooks (Corvus frugilegus), a highly social corvid species, deal with social challenges. Social group living comes with daily challenges for each individual of the group. Indeed, other group members can be cooperative partners but they also can be competitors in many situations. Rooks are particularly exposed to these costs of social living: they forage, nest, and rest in large groups, surronded by numerous potential competitors throughout the year. To investigate the way rooks overcome competition, I focus on several challenging contexts: (i) aggressive conflicts and post-conflict periods, (ii) caching and pilfering in mild and fierce competition and (iii) food monopolization. I aim to determine the strategies individuals use to (i) escape from renewed aggression risk as victims after a conflict, (ii) protect their caches from others and gain access to others’ caches and how flexibly they adapt these strategies in response to the social context and (iii) how they manage to gain access to and monopolize food against others and ultimately how the dominance relationships are shaped at the group scale. These pieces of information are essential because we still know only a little about social cognition in social corvid species and more broably in bird species (compared to social mammals). This work could thus give more clues to know more about the life of social corvids and bring clues on the influence of social living on the evolution of social cognition.