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Environmental complexity influences association network structure and network-based diffusion of foraging information in fish shoals

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Abstract

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.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-244
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume181
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

    Research areas

  • contagion, social information, Preferences, public information, Habitat, Predation risk, Poecilia-Reticulata, Behavior, social learning, Threespine stickleback, social network, social transmission, Stickleback gasterosteus-aculeatus, 3-spined sticklebacks, Social networks

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