Social learning improves survivorship at a life-history transition

Manassa, R.P., and McCormick, M.I. (2013) Social learning improves survivorship at a life-history transition. Oecologia, 171 (4). pp. 845-852.

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During settlement, one of the main threats faced by individuals relates to their ability to detect and avoid predators. Information on predator identities can be gained either through direct experience or from the observation and/or interaction with others, a process known as social learning. In this form of predator recognition, less experienced individuals learn from experienced members within the social group, without having to directly interact with a predator. In this study, we examined the role of social learning in predator recognition in relation to the survival benefits for the damselfish, Pomacentrus wardi, during their settlement transition. Specifically, our experiments aimed to determine if P. wardi are capable of transmitting the recognition of the odour of a predator, Pseudochromis fuscus, to conspecifics. The experiment also examined whether there was a difference in the rate of survival between individuals that directly learnt the predator odour and those which acquired the information through social learning compared to naïve individuals. Results show that naïve P. wardi are able to learn a predator's identity from experienced individuals via social learning. Furthermore, survival between individuals that directly learnt the predator's identity and those that learnt through social learning did not significantly differ, with fish from both treatments surviving at least five times better than controls. These results demonstrate that experience may play a vital role in determining the outcome of predator–prey interactions, highlighting that social learning improves the ability of prey to avoid and/or escape predation at a life-history transition.

Item ID: 24585
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1939
Keywords: survival, risk assessment, learning, reef fishes, sociality
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2013 06:22
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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