The Origin and Spread of Innovations in Starlings

Neeltje Janna Boogert, S M Reader, William John Edward Hoppitt, Kevin Neville Laland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There are numerous reports of novel learned behaviour patterns in animal populations, yet the factors influencing the invention and spread of these innovations remain poorly understood. Here we investigated to what extent the pattern of spread of innovations in captive groups of starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, could be predicted by knowledge of individual and social group variables, including association patterns, social rank orders, measures of neophobia and asocial learning performance. We presented small groups of starlings with a series of novel extractive foraging tasks and recorded the latency for each bird to contact and solve each task, as well as the orders of contacting and solving. We then explored which variables best predicted the observed diffusion patterns. Object neophobia and social rank measures characterized who was the first of the group to contact the novel foraging tasks, and the subsequent spread of contacting tasks was associated with latency to feed in a novel environment. Asocial learning performance, measured in isolation, predicted who was the first solver of the novel foraging tasks in each group. Association patterns did not predict the spread of solving. Contact latency and solving duration were negatively correlated, consistent with social learning underlying the spread of solving. Our findings indicate that we can improve our understanding of the diffusion dynamics of innovations in animal groups by investigating group-dependent and individual variables in combination. We introduce novel methods for exploring predictors of the origin and spread of behavioural innovations that could be widely applied. (C) 2008 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1509-1518
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume75
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008

Keywords

  • diffusion dynamics
  • dominance
  • foraging
  • group
  • innovation
  • neophobia
  • social learning
  • social network
  • starling
  • Sturnus vulgaris
  • ACCELERATING LEARNING RATES
  • FOOD-FINDING BEHAVIOR
  • CULTURAL TRANSMISSION
  • STURNUS-VULGARIS
  • SOCIAL NETWORKS
  • BIRDS
  • PIGEONS
  • NEOPHOBIA
  • EVOLUTION
  • DIFFUSION

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