Social transmission of information about novel food in two populations of the African striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio

Rymer, Tasmin, Schradin, Carsten, and Pillay, Neville (2008) Social transmission of information about novel food in two populations of the African striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio. Animal Behaviour, 76 (4). pp. 1297-1304.

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Abstract

Social learning involves the transmission of information from demonstrators to conspecifics. The mother is expected to be the main demonstrator in solitary species, whereas several individuals can be demonstrators in group-living species. We studied social learning about novel food in two populations of the African striped mouse, with different social systems: a desert population (group living with paternal care and natal philopatry) and a grassland population (solitary, paternal care in captivity only and natal dispersal). We predicted that both parents would be reliable demonstrators for desert striped mice but only the mother would be a demonstrator for grassland striped mice. Adults and unweaned young were assigned to one of five treatments in captivity: (1) father or (2) mother fed novel food away from young; (3) novel food fed to both adults with young present; and (4) father or (5) mother fed mouse cubes (control) away from young. Juveniles from all treatments individually received novel food after weaning. The responses of juveniles to novel food were greater (shorter latency, more sniffs) when the mother was the demonstrator, regardless of population. Mothers may be more reliable demonstrators than fathers because information can be transmitted using multiple channels (olfaction, lactation). Our study also showed that fathers were more reliable demonstrators and responses to the novel food were greater in desert than grassland striped mice. These population differences reflect the different social organization of the populations and the unpredictable availability of highly nutritious food in the desert.

Item ID: 33307
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8282
Keywords: African striped mouse; demonstrator reliability; food novelty; information transfer; paternal care; Rhabdomys pumilio; social learning
Funders: National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa, University of the Witwatersrand
Projects and Grants: NRF 2069110
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2014 00:30
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 80%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960811 Sparseland, Permanent Grassland and Arid Zone Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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