Dominance and social information use in a lizard
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There is mounting evidence that social learning is not just restricted to group-living animals, but also occurs in species with a wide range of social systems. However, we still have a poor understanding of the factors driving individual differences in social information use. We investigated the effects of relative dominance on social information use in the eastern water skink (Eulamprus quoyii), a species with age-dependent social learning. We used staged contests to establish dominant–subordinate relationships in pairs of lizards and tested whether observers use social information to more quickly solve both an association and reversal learning task in situations where the demonstrator was either dominant or subordinate. Surprisingly, we found no evidence of social information use, irrespective of relative dominance between observer and demonstrator. However, dominant lizards learnt at a faster rate than subordinate lizards in the associative learning task, although there were no significant differences in the reversal task. In light of previous work in this species, we suggest that age may be a more important driver of social information use because demonstrators and observers in our study were closely size-matched and were likely to be of similar age.
KeywordsSocial learning Private information Social status Social rank Reptile
We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback on the earlier version of this manuscript. We are grateful for Christine Wilson for scoring our video footage, and we would also like to thank the numerous members of the Lizard Lab that assisted us with lizard collection, husbandry and experimental setup.
DWAN was supported by an Australian Research Council (DECRA: DE150101774), and this work was also supported by Macquarie University and a Discovery Grant (DP130102998) awarded by the Australian Research Council to MJW.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All protocols for this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Macquarie University Animal Ethics Committee (ARA 2014/036). A scientific permit for this study was granted by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Environment and Heritage (SL100328).
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