Nicolas Claidière, Emily J.E. Messer, William Hoppitt, Andrew Whiten
Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 13, 1251-1255, 27 June 2013
Social network analyses [1,2,3,4,5] and experimental studies of social learning [6,7,8,9,10] have each become important domains of animal behavior research in recent years yet have remained largely separate. Here we bring them together, providing the first demonstration of how social networks may shape the diffusion of socially learned foraging techniques . One technique for opening an artificial fruit was seeded in the dominant male of a group of squirrel monkeys and an alternative technique in the dominant male of a second group. We show that the two techniques spread preferentially in the groups in which they were initially seeded and that this process was influenced by monkeys’ association patterns. Eigenvector centrality predicted both the speed with which an individual would first succeed in opening the artificial fruit and the probability that they would acquire the cultural variant seeded in their group. These findings demonstrate a positive role of social networks in determining how a new foraging technique diffuses through a population.