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Education

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,