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, but juveniles that experience stress during early development completely avoid learning from parents and instead learn exclusively from unrelated parents. These results suggests that social learning strategies are plastic, and that early-life conditions provide cues that can shape developmental trajectories. Read the paper here.