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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony$
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Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182810

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182810.001.0001

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A Tale of Two Fishes

A Tale of Two Fishes

Chapter:
(p.77) Chapter 4 A Tale of Two Fishes
Source:
Darwin's Unfinished Symphony
Author(s):

Kevin N. Laland

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691182810.003.0004

This chapter describes a protracted program of experimental research conducted over 20 years that set out to comprehend a fascinating difference in the social learning of two closely related species of sticklebacks. Extensive experimental data show that social learning and tradition play important roles in the behavioral development of countless fishes, most of which are highly social animals. Fish behavior is far from rigidly controlled by a “genetic program,” but rather is constantly and flexibly adjusted to exploit information and resources in the environment, including information provided by other fish. As such, the research is presented in detail to illustrate how a dedicated line of research using a flexible model system can provide valuable insights into more general issues related to the evolution of culture. The investigation also demonstrates how the science in this field is done. Scientific questions in this domain are rarely answered with a single experiment, but often require an extensive series of studies, each chipping away at the problem. Beginning as a curious anomaly, prolonged experimentation on the question developed into a wonderful glimpse at the bigger picture of how social learning evolves.

Keywords:   experimental research, sticklebacks, fish behavior, behavioral development, flexible model system, culture, evolution, social learning, tradition

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