From fish to fashion: Experimental and theoretical insights into the evolution of culture

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Recent years have witnessed a re-evaluation of the cognitive capabilities of fishes, including with respect to social learning. Indeed, some of the best experimental evidence for animal traditions can be found in fishes. Laboratory experimental studies reveal that many fishes acquire dietary, food site and mating preferences, predator recognition and avoidance behaviour, and learn pathways, through copying(1) other fishes. Concentrating on foraging behaviour, we will present the findings of laboratory experiments that reveal social learning, behavioural innovation, the diffusion of novel behaviour through populations and traditional use of food sites. Further studies reveal surprisingly complex social learning strategies deployed by sticklebacks. We will go on to place these observations of fish in a phylogenetic context, describing in which respects the learning and traditionality of fish are similar to, and differ from, that observed in other animals. We end by drawing on theoretical insights to suggest processes that may have played important roles in the evolution of the human cultural capability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-968
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1567
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2011


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