Science: Shared decision-making in wild baboons

A paper published in Science by Ari Strandburg-Peshkin, Damien Farine, Iain Couzin and Meg Crofoot sheds new light on collective movement in highly heterogeneous groups of animals in the wild. This paper combines fitting high-resolution collars to almost all individuals in a troop of wild baboons with innovative analytical techniques to reveal how primate troops decide where and when to move. Baboon movement dynamics are remarkably similar to those predicted by theoretical models of collective animal behaviour that are based on simple interaction rules,

The American Naturalist Presidential Award

The Jordan lab‘s recent paper on optimal social foraging in spiders, which appeared in The American Naturalist, won the 2015 President’s Award for best paper

(via amnat.org): The winner of the American Society of Naturalists’ Presidential Award for the best paper to appear in the journal American Naturalist during 2014 is entitled, “Reproductive Foragers: Male Spiders Choose Mates by Selecting among Competitive Environments” and was written by Alex Jordan,

Trends in Ecology & Evolution: The evolutionary implications of group phenotypic composition

A paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution by Damien Farine and co-authors highlights the importance for considering the evolutionary feedback between individuals and the phenotypic composition of their social environment. When phenotypic structure exists in a group, community, or population of animals, then selection can operate across multiple scales. When social or group-level selection arises, it can induce an evolutionary response in individuals, thus driving the emergence of plasticity or social decision-making rules.

Current Biology: Social relationships determine individual foraging behaviour

A new paper published in Current Biology, co-authored by Damien Farine, examined how wild birds valued their relationship with their mated partner in comparison to their access to food. Using automated feeding stations, mated pairs were split so that male could only access the feeding stations that the female couldn’t, and vice versa. However, the birds chose to sacrifice access to food in order to stay with their partner over the winter period.

Current Biology: Social learning strategies

A new paper published in Current Biology by Damien Farine and Neeltje Boogert shows that exposure to stress in early life led juvenile zebra finches to switch social learning strategies. Zebra finches acquire new foraging behaviours by observing conspecifics, but this information does not spread randomly through the social network. Using a novel statistical model revealed that finches only learn new tasks from knowledgeable adults and ignore juvenile demonstrators. Juveniles prioritise learning from their parents,

Nature: Experimental evolution of culture in wild birds

A new paper in Nature with Damien Farine and colleagues from the University of Oxford reports an experimental study in Wytham Woods, Oxford, in which arbitrary behaviours were introduced and tracked as they spread through social networks of wild great tits. The work shows that social learning can lead to the rapid establishment of stable differences within populations, a form of avian ‘culture’, and implicates conformist learning – where individuals preferentially copy the majority,