Social learning of predators by coral reef fish: does observer number influence acquisition of information?

Manassa, R.P., McCormick, M.I., Dixson, D.L., Ferrari, M.C.O., and Chivers, D.P. (2014) Social learning of predators by coral reef fish: does observer number influence acquisition of information? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68 (8). pp. 1237-1244.

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Abstract

Prey that are capable of continuously learning the identity of new predators whilst adjusting the intensity of their responses to match their level of risk, are often at a substantive advantage. Learning about predators can occur through direct experience or through social learning from experienced individuals. Social learning provides individuals with an effective means of acquiring information while reducing the costs associated with direct learning. Under a natural setting, social learning is likely to occur between more than two individuals. As such, investigating the effect that group size has on the ability of individuals to acquire information is vital to understanding social learning dynamics. Given the characteristics of coral reefs and the biology of coral reef fishes, these habitats are an ideal medium to test whether group size affects the transmission of information. Using newly settled damselfish (Pomacentrus amboinensis), we examined whether the number of observers present influences transmission of information. We showed that: (1) predator recognition is socially transmitted from predator-experienced to predator-naïve individuals regardless of group size, and that (2) the level of response displayed by the observer does not differ following learning in different sized groups. Our study highlights that information on predator identities is able to be passed onto group members quickly without a dilution of information content.

Item ID: 38438
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0762
Keywords: group size, sociality, risk assessment, learning, coral reef fishes
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2015 02:09
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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