Data for: General cognitive performance declines with female age and is negatively related to fledging success in a wild bird



Identifying the causes and fitness consequences of intraspecific variation in cognitive performance is fundamental to understand how cognition evolves. Selection may act on different cognitive traits separately or jointly as part of the general cognitive performance of the individual. To date, few studies have examined simultaneously whether individual cognitive performance covaries across different cognitive tasks, the relative importance of individual and social attributes in determining cognitive variation, and its fitness consequences in the wild. Here, we tested 38 wild southern pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) on a cognitive test battery targeting associative learning, reversal learning and inhibitory control. We found that a single factor explained 59.5% of the variation in individual cognitive performance across tasks, suggestive of a general cognitive factor. General cognitive performance varied by age and sex; declining with age in females but not males. Older females also tended to produce a higher average number of fledglings per year compared to younger females. Analysing over 10 years of breeding data, we found that individuals with lower general cognitive performance produced more fledglings per year. Collectively, our findings support the existence of a trade-off between cognitive performance and reproductive success in a wild bird.
Date made available5 Dec 2022

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