3 years ago

A social insect perspective on the evolution of social learning mechanisms [Evolution]

A social insect perspective on the evolution of social learning mechanisms [Evolution]
Erika H. Dawson, Ellouise Leadbeater

The social world offers a wealth of opportunities to learn from others, and across the animal kingdom individuals capitalize on those opportunities. Here, we explore the role of natural selection in shaping the processes that underlie social information use, using a suite of experiments on social insects as case studies. We illustrate how an associative framework can encompass complex, context-specific social learning in the insect world and beyond, and based on the hypothesis that evolution acts to modify the associative process, suggest potential pathways by which social information use could evolve to become more efficient and effective. Social insects are distant relatives of vertebrate social learners, but the research we describe highlights routes by which natural selection could coopt similar cognitive raw material across the animal kingdom.

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