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


Rymer, T; Schradin, C; Pillay, N (2008). Social transmission of information about novel food in two populations of the African striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio. Animal Behaviour, 76(4):1297-1304.

Abstract

Social learning involves the transmission of information from demonstrators to conspecifics, and it is expected that the mother is 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: desert population (group-living, paternal care and natal philopatry) and 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 were subjected individually to 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 for desert than grassland striped mice, and that responses to the novel food were greater in desert than grassland striped mice. These population differences reflect the different social organisation of the populations and the unpredictable availability of highly nutritious food in the desert.

Abstract

Social learning involves the transmission of information from demonstrators to conspecifics, and it is expected that the mother is 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: desert population (group-living, paternal care and natal philopatry) and 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 were subjected individually to 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 for desert than grassland striped mice, and that responses to the novel food were greater in desert than grassland striped mice. These population differences reflect the different social organisation of the populations and the unpredictable availability of highly nutritious food in the desert.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Demonstrator reliability, Food novelty, Information transfer, Paternal care, Rhabdomys pumilio, Social learning
Language:English
Date:21 July 2008
Deposited On:17 Nov 2008 09:35
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:33
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.06.014

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