Case Study 5: Culture in fish?

Many fishes have traditions for following particular routes, using specific places for mating or feeding, and preferring particular foods, which are learned from more experienced individuals. Some of the best evidence for animal traditions is found in fishes, because removal and relocation experiments have prove their behaviour to be socially transmitted, and maintained across generations [1].

Our laboratory experiments have shown that novel feeding behaviour can be transmitted through shoals of fish, that simple copying and following processes can generate behavioural traditions [2], and that some fish copy using surprisingly complex learning rules [3].


[1] Laland K.N. & Janik V. (2006) The animal cultures debate. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 21: 542–547
[2] Laland, K.N. & Williams, K. (1997) Shoaling generates social learning of foraging information in guppies. Animal Behaviour 53: 1161–1169.
[3] Pike T.W. et al. (2010) Learning by proportional observation in a species of fish. Behavioural Ecology 21, 576-583.