© Sonia Fernandez

Corina Logan
Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow
Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Twitter: @LoganCorina

Publications + Full CV

© National Geographic Society
Watch clever grackles solve a challenge
from Aesop's Fables

Read the story that goes with the video

© NY Times
The grackle's secret to success
Read the story that goes with the video

© Corina Logan
Tequila Shots!
Meet Tequila's fan club

© Corina Logan
Meet Charlie (female), our first banded great-tailed grackle!

What is behavioral flexibility and is it responsible for species' invasion success?
Behavioral flexibility, the ability to adapt behavior to new environments and problems, is thought to play an important role in a species' ability to successfully invade. However, behavioral flexibility is rarely directly tested in invasive species in a way that would allow us to understand how it works and how we can make predictions about a species' ability to adapt their behavior to changing circumstances. I use great-tailed grackles (a bird species) as a model to study this question because they are one of the most invasive species in North America. I found that they are behaviorally flexible and that flexibility is independent from problem solving ability, problem solving speed (Logan 2016a), other behaviors (Logan 2016b), and innovativeness (Logan 2016c), and that grackles can solve some problems with a similar efficiency to New Caledonian crows (Logan et al. 2014). These results also contradict the hypothesis that behavioral flexibility should correlate with brain size (relative to body size) because grackles have an average sized brain for a bird, whereas crows have a large relative brain size. This research is opening a new field of understanding how individuals can use behavior to adapt to environmental change.

Why does brain size vary in the wild?
If brain size does not predict cognitive ability, as I and others have found, then why do brain sizes vary? I have a unique opportunity examine what social, ecological, and genetic factors influence endocranial volume (a proxy for brain size) variation in a long-term dataset of over 1,300 red deer that lived on the Isle of Rum in Scotland. As individuals in the study died over the past 40+ years, their skulls were kept, providing extensive data for each specimen and making it possible to answer previously inaccessible questions about the heritability of endocranial volume in the wild.

My past research found that social support after fights was not dependent on the social system of the species (rooks, jackdaws, and Eurasian jays) and it reduced rook postconflict aggression in a context dependent way (Logan et al. 2013a & 2013b). I discovered that adult male coati (a raccoon relative) behavior is flexible: in one population, adult males play with juveniles rather than prey on them (Logan & Longino 2013). I also hypothesized that birds that forage on animals fleeing from the front of army ant raids might have developed behavioral and cognitive adaptations for flexibly tracking the ants in space and time, making them a new system for investigating memory and future planning (Logan et al. 2011).
2016 Learning & Behavior Best Article Award: New Caledonian crows use social and personal information. UCSB press

Behavioral flexibility is not related to other behaviors. Press: UCSB, Gates. Interviews: Cambridge News, BBC Lunchtime Live (21 July, starts at 31:16)

Became an Associate Editor at Royal Society Open Science

Behavioral flexibility is not the same as innovativeness. Press: Cambridge, Gates, NY Times ScienceTake, Audubon, Curious Meerkat.

Great-tailed grackles are behaviorally flexible and solve Aesop's Fable tests! UCSB press, Nat Geo video

Scrub-jays fail Aesop's Fable experiments

I blogged at She Talks Science

I hosted Ask Me Anything on PLOS Science

Measuring grackle skulls with calipers does NOT accurately predict endocranial volume. Interview, press release

Are grackles the most amazing animals? Grackles vs geckos on BBC's Dotty McLeod (starts at 1h:54m). Grackles vs 6 others on Naked Scientists and 5live Science (grackles at 35:04)

New Caledonian crows discriminate between water volumes: UCSB news, Nat Geo blog, interviews: Futureproof (starts at 25:20), Moncrieff show (starts at 36:52)

I'm quoted in MacLean's Don't call them bird brains

Need to study the whole brain to know if non-humans imagine themselves in the past and future

New Caledonian crow vlog at Nat Geo Explorers Journal!