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Experience of the signaller explains the use of social versus personal information in the context of sentinel behaviour in meerkats


Rauber, Ramona; Manser, M B (2018). Experience of the signaller explains the use of social versus personal information in the context of sentinel behaviour in meerkats. Scientific Reports, 8:11506.

Abstract

To maximise foraging opportunities while simultaneously avoiding predation, group-living animals can obtain personal information on food availability and predation risk and/or rely on social information provided by group members. Although mainly associated with low costs of information acquisition, social information has the potential to be irrelevant or inaccurate. In this study we use playbacks of individually distinct sentinel calming calls produced during sentinel behaviour, a form of coordinated vigilance behaviour, to show that meerkats (Suricata suricatta) discriminate between social information provided by different sentinels and adjust their personal vigilance behaviour according to the individual that is played back. We found that foraging group members acquired the lowest amounts of personal information when hearing social information provided by experienced individuals that act as sentinels most often in their group and littermates. Our study shows that social information can be flexibly used in the context of sentinel behaviour in order to optimize the trade-off between foraging and vigilance behaviours dependent on discrimination among signallers. We also provide novel evidence that the experience of sentinels rather than their age or dominance status is the main factor affecting the extent to which individuals use social information.

Abstract

To maximise foraging opportunities while simultaneously avoiding predation, group-living animals can obtain personal information on food availability and predation risk and/or rely on social information provided by group members. Although mainly associated with low costs of information acquisition, social information has the potential to be irrelevant or inaccurate. In this study we use playbacks of individually distinct sentinel calming calls produced during sentinel behaviour, a form of coordinated vigilance behaviour, to show that meerkats (Suricata suricatta) discriminate between social information provided by different sentinels and adjust their personal vigilance behaviour according to the individual that is played back. We found that foraging group members acquired the lowest amounts of personal information when hearing social information provided by experienced individuals that act as sentinels most often in their group and littermates. Our study shows that social information can be flexibly used in the context of sentinel behaviour in order to optimize the trade-off between foraging and vigilance behaviours dependent on discrimination among signallers. We also provide novel evidence that the experience of sentinels rather than their age or dominance status is the main factor affecting the extent to which individuals use social information.

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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)
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:social information, cooperative breeders, sentinel behaviour, acoustic communication, meerkats
Language:English
Date:23 August 2018
Deposited On:15 Feb 2019 10:51
Last Modified:11 May 2020 18:30
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2045-2322
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-29678-y
PubMed ID:30139953

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