Behaviour 2019
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Social learning, demography and generalisation drive information transmission in wild jackdaws
Josh J. Arbon, Guillam E. McIvor, Alex Thornton. University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Social learning enables the transmission of information through many animal populations. However, as most experiments provide animals with binary options, the extent to which social learning can generalise to novel options is unclear. This is particularly important in a rapidly changing world, where adaptability will be crucial. Here we present the results of a novel food diffusion experiment investigating the factors driving information transmission in a wild population of jackdaws. We demonstrate how demographic factors shape information transfer, with age and sex influencing social and individual learning. In addition, we show how aggression can both accelerate and inhibit learning under different circumstances. We also provide novel evidence of how generalisation of learning can cause new behaviours to spread rapidly throughout a population without the need for each variant to be witnessed by individuals. These results highlight the adaptive strategies individuals use to access new and valuable information, shed light on the processes that generate and maintain diversity in cultural traits and provide insights into how animals adapt to new information in a changing world.