Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stickleback Learning

Nine-spined sticklebacks, a species of small fish, exhibited a form of social learning called "hill climbing", wherein they compare their own experiences with those of others around them. This is an efficient learning behavior known to exist in humans, and demonstrates that the strategy can be used in far simpler organisms.

The Guardian reports:

Lots of animals learn from their more experienced peers to gain skills such as hunting, foraging or evading predators.

"But it is not always a recipe for success to simply copy someone," said Kendal. "Animals are often better off being selective about when and who they copy. These fish are obviously not at all closely related to humans, yet they have this human ability to only copy when the pay-off is better than their own. You might expect this ability in animals who are closely related to humans. In the case of the nine-spined stickleback, they have most likely adapted to their local ecology."

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