Environmental complexity influences association network structure and network-based diffusion of foraging information in fish shoals
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Socially transmitted information can significantly affect the ways in which animals interact with their environments. We used network-based diffusion analysis, a novel and powerful tool for exploring information transmission, to model the rate at which sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) discovered prey patches, comparing shoals foraging in open and structured environments. We found that for groups in the open environment, individuals tended to recruit to both the prey patch and empty comparison patches at similar times, suggesting that patch discovery was not greatly affected by direct social transmission. In contrast, in structured environments we found strong evidence that information about prey patch location was socially transmitted and moreover that the pathway of information transmission followed the shoals' association network structures. Our findings highlight the importance of considering habitat structure when investigating the diffusion of information through populations and imply that association networks take on greater ecological significance in structured than open environments.
Webster , M M , Atton , N , Hoppitt , W J E & Laland , K N 2013 , ' Environmental complexity influences association network structure and network-based diffusion of foraging information in fish shoals ' American Naturalist , vol 181 , no. 2 , pp. 235-244 . DOI: 10.1086/668825
Copyright 2013 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
This project was funded by grants from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/D010365/1) and the European Research Council (EVOCULTURE 232823) to K.N.L.
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