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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Jeremy Kendal

Stanley, E.L., Kendal, R.L., Kendal, J.R., Grounds, S. & Laland, K.N. (2008). Factors affecting the stability of foraging traditions in fishes. Animal Behaviour 75: 565-572.
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0003-3472
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.06.014
  • Keywords: culture, fish, foraging, Poecilia reticulate, social learning, tradition, Xiphophorus maculates.

Author(s) from Durham


There is considerable laboratory-based evidence that social learning plays a role in the behaviour of many animals, including fishes. However, a weakness of such studies in fishes, is that in virtually all to-date, the behaviour exhibited could be learned asocially, with the social influence merely accelerating the rate of learning. Lefebvre & Palameta (1988. In Social Learning: Psychological and Biological Perspectives. pp.141-164) argued that the most compelling evidence for social learning comes from studies where inexperienced animals are unlikely to learn the target behaviour by themselves. The present study is designed to address this concern, by employing a feeding tube task in which fish gain access to food by swimming in a manner that they would not normally exhibit. Employing a transmission-chain design, we demonstrate foraging traditions in guppies (Poecilia reticulata) and southern Platyfish (Xiphophorus maculates), in which shoal members continue to exploit the food available in the feeding tube, in spite of changes in the composition of the shoal due to the gradual removal of demonstrators. Two experiments provide strong evidence for social learning underlying traditional behaviour, such as migratory routes, in fishes, and reveal how the stability of such traditions (duration within a population) is affected by group size (2, 4 or 6 fish) and rate of turnover (16.5%, 25% or 50% per day). While larger shoals of fish exhibited more stable traditions than smaller shoals, this was found to be related to their slower rate of turnover rather than a direct effect of group size.