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Anim Behav. 1997 Jun;53(6):1161-9.

Shoaling generates social learning of foraging information in guppies

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Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge


Two experimental studies are reported which investigate the social learning of foraging information in guppies, Poecilia reticulataIn both cases, untrained adult female guppies swam with trained conspecifics to feed, and in the process learned a route to a food source. In experiment 1, subjects were given 5 days experience swimming with demonstrator fish trained to take one of two equivalent routes to food. When tested alone, subjects preferentially used the route of their demonstrators. Experiment 2 investigated whether this social learning could mediate the stable transmission of route preferences among small populations of fish. This experiment used a transmission chain design, in which fish in small founder populations were trained to take one of the two routes, with founder members gradually replaced by untrained conspecifics. Three days after all founder members had been removed, populations of untrained fish still maintained strong preferences for the routes of their founders. The results suggest that the tendency to shoal may facilitate a simple form of guided social learning, which allows guppies to learn about their local environments. They also imply that selectively neutral behavioural alternatives may be maintained as traditions in aggregated animal populations by very simple social mechanisms. The transmission chain method may be particularly useful for studying social species, such as the guppy, that do not respond well to isolation testing.


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