In animal populations, the constraints of energy and time can cause intraspecific variation in foraging behaviour. The proximate developmental mediators of such variation are often the mechanisms underlying perception and associative learning. Here, experience-dependent changes in foraging behaviour and their consequences were investigated in an urban population of free-ranging dogs, Canis familiaris by continually challenging them with the task of food extraction from specially crafted packets. Typically, males and pregnant/lactating (PL) females extracted food using the sophisticated ‘gap widening’ technique, whereas non-pregnant/non-lactating (NPNL) females, the relatively underdeveloped ‘rip opening’ technique. In contrast to most males and PL females (and a few NPNL females) that repeatedly used the gap widening technique and improved their performance in food extraction with experience, most NPNL females (and a few males and PL females) non-preferentially used the two extraction techniques and did not improve over successive trials. Furthermore, the ability of dogs to sophisticatedly extract food was positively related to their ability to improve their performance with experience. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that factors such as sex and physiological state can cause differences among individuals in the likelihood of learning new information and hence, in the rate of resource acquisition and monopolization.
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