Reading aloud Twitter, Facebook and Co are achievements of the digital age. But the roots of such social networks are profound, as a study by British researchers of squirrel monkeys suggests: animals that are particularly well networked, learn the fastest of new tricks to get food. Social networks are therefore probably a well-tried concept in the formation of forms of culture social animals. Andrew Whiten of the University of St Andrews and his colleagues made their discoveries through a combination of observations and experiments documenting the ability to study squirrel monkey social learning. The researchers first created a complex model of the social network of two groups of monkeys by closely observing which animal spent with which group member how much time. So the model provided information about which specimens were at the heart of the web and which were more like outsider roles in the group.

Aha - that's how it works!

How "know how" spreads in this network, the scientists examined by special feeding experiments. The animals had to know a trick to get to the tidbits of a special food source: either open a flap or swing it to the side led to success. The researchers each contributed one of these two possible strategies to the respective leader of the two experimental groups. Alpha monkey number one knew so the top-closing, the other dominated the swinging technique. These two animals then returned to their groups. The whole community has now been confronted with the feeding facilities. Now the researchers were able to observe whether and how the respective technique spread from the alpha animal in the two monkey hordes.

Basically, it was shown that squirrel monkeys are actually capable of social learning: Starting from the alpha male number one spread in one group, the folding technique, the other male mediated the His, however, the swivel variant. It showed that monkeys, who were more intensively involved in the social network, were able to acquire the respective technology much faster than animals with weaker connections: those who were better connected had the opportunity to look at the technique more quickly. "Our results show that innovation does not spread randomly in primate groups, but the transmission is characterized by the social network in which the monkey is located - similar to humans, " summed up Whiten. display

Andrew Whiten (University of St Andrews) et al .: Current Biology, doi: 10.1016 / j.cub.2013.05.036 © science.de - Martin Vieweg

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