Behaviour 2019
Demographic turnover facilitates cultural selection for efficiency
Michael Chimento1,2, Gustavo Alarcon-Nieto1, Lucy Aplin1,2. 1Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior, Radolfzell, , Germany; 2Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior, Konstanz, , Germany

Cultural evolution for efficient behaviors is hypothesized to be a crucial precursor for cumulative culture. Yet while well-studied in humans, there is scarce evidence for this in other species. Cultural evolution should be further affected by external factors such as demography; e.g. demographic turnover may introduce behavioral variation on which selection can act. Here, we use great tits (Parus major) as a study system to test the effect of the turnover on cultural selection for efficiency. An automated foraging puzzle with two solutions of differing efficiencies was presented to 18 populations of wild-caught great tits, with populations either static or regularly turned over. All populations were initially started on the inefficient solution. By analyzing changes in behavioral frequencies, we show that turnover facilitates cultural selection for efficient behavior. While all populations became more efficient over time, turnover populations innovated and adopted the alternative, efficient solution more readily than static populations. Our results provide support for cultural selection for efficiency in animals, and highlight the role of demographic turnover in this process.