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Resilience of experimentally seeded dietary traditions in wild vervets: evidence from group fissions


van de Waal, Erica; van Schaik, Carel P; Whiten, Andrew (2017). Resilience of experimentally seeded dietary traditions in wild vervets: evidence from group fissions. American Journal of Primatology, 79(10):e22687.

Abstract

Controlled laboratory experiments have delivered extensive and compelling evidence for the diffusion and maintenance of socially learned behavior in primates and other animals. Such evidence is rarer in the wild, but we show that a behavior seeded in a majority of individuals within vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythus) groups may be sustained across several years. Here, we report results of two natural fission events in such groups that offer novel evidence of the resilience of socially transmitted group norms of behavior. Before fission, high ranked females exhibited an almost exclusive adherence to a group preference among two food options, originally introduced through a distasteful additive in one option, but no longer present in repeated later tests. Because of rank-dependent competition, low-ranked females ate more of the formerly distasteful food and so discovered it was now as palatable as the alternative. Despite this experience, low ranked females who formed the splinter groups then expressed a 100% bias for the preferred option of their original parent group, revealing these preferences to be resilient. We interpret this effect as conformity to either the preferences of high rankers or of a majority in the parent group, or both. However, given fissioned individuals' familiarity with their habitat and experimental options, we question the adequacy of the informational function usually ascribed to conformity and discuss alternatives under a concept of "social conformity".

Abstract

Controlled laboratory experiments have delivered extensive and compelling evidence for the diffusion and maintenance of socially learned behavior in primates and other animals. Such evidence is rarer in the wild, but we show that a behavior seeded in a majority of individuals within vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythus) groups may be sustained across several years. Here, we report results of two natural fission events in such groups that offer novel evidence of the resilience of socially transmitted group norms of behavior. Before fission, high ranked females exhibited an almost exclusive adherence to a group preference among two food options, originally introduced through a distasteful additive in one option, but no longer present in repeated later tests. Because of rank-dependent competition, low-ranked females ate more of the formerly distasteful food and so discovered it was now as palatable as the alternative. Despite this experience, low ranked females who formed the splinter groups then expressed a 100% bias for the preferred option of their original parent group, revealing these preferences to be resilient. We interpret this effect as conformity to either the preferences of high rankers or of a majority in the parent group, or both. However, given fissioned individuals' familiarity with their habitat and experimental options, we question the adequacy of the informational function usually ascribed to conformity and discuss alternatives under a concept of "social conformity".

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:conformity, field experiment, group fission, social learning, tradition
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:11 Dec 2017 15:20
Last Modified:23 Sep 2018 06:11
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0275-2565
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.22687
PubMed ID:28762524
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_159587
  • : Project TitleSocial learning rules and their adaptive function in wild vervet monkeys
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDCRSI33_133040
  • : Project Titlethe evolution of social behaviour in vervet monkeys: an experimental approach
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDP300P3_151187
  • : Project TitleThe transmission of traditions in wild primates: an experimental approach with vervet monkeys

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