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Title: Social information use in social insects
Author: Dawson, Erika H.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 3565
Awarding Body: Queen Mary, University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2014
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Social learning plays a valuable role in the lives of many animal taxa, sometimes allowing individuals to bypass the costs of personal exploration. The ubiquity of this behaviour may arise from the fact that learning from others is often underpinned by simple learning processes that also enable individuals to learn asocially. Insects have proven to be particularly valuable models for investigating parsimonious hypotheses with regards to social learning processes, due to their small brain sizes and the prevalence of social information use in their life histories. In this thesis, I use social insects to further investigate the mechanisms underlying more complex social learning behaviours and explore the circumstances under which social information use manifests. In the first chapter, I investigate the proximate mechanisms underlying social learning and demonstrate that even seemingly complex social learning behaviours can arise through simple associative learning processes. In Chapter two, I investigate whether bees are more predisposed to learning from conspecific cues and discover that social information is learnt to a greater extent than information originating from non-social sources. In Chapter four, I demonstrate that classical conditioning also underpins learning from evolved social signals in honeybees. Finally, I investigate whether social information is used adaptively by bumblebees: Chapter three demonstrates that joining behaviour in free-flying bees is contingent upon whether flowers are familiar or not, and in Chapter six, I show that when social information is costly to acquire, bees are more likely to rely on social information to make foraging decisions. Taken as a whole, my findings suggest that bees may be specially adapted for receiving social information, but the ability to learn from others arises through general associative learning mechanisms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: social learning mechanisms ; social information use ; bumblebees ; honeybees ; foraging ; associative learning