Limited social learning of a novel technical problem by spotted hyenas

Author(s): 
Benson-Amram, S., Heinen, V.K., Gessner, A., Weldele, M.L., and Holekamp, K.E.

Year:

Abstract: 

Invited paper for a special issue on "Cognition In The Wild."

Social learning can have profound evolutionary consequences because it drives the diffusion of novel
behaviours among individuals and promotes the maintenance of traditions within populations. We
inquired whether spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), generalist carnivores living in complex, primatelike
societies, acquire information from conspecifics about a novel problem-solving task. Previously, we
presented wild hyenas with a food-access puzzle and found that social learning opportunities did not
affect problem-solving success among observers, but did reduce observers’ neophobia. However, we had
little control over which individuals observed conspecifics solve the problem, and few wild hyenas were
successful. Therefore, we conducted an experiment in captivity where we controlled observer access to
two demonstration styles. Again, social learning opportunities did not affect problem-solving success,
but tended to reduce neophobia among captive observers. Social learning opportunities also influenced
problem-solving style. Captive hyenas showed limited evidence for directed social learning; low-ranking
individuals paid closer attention to demonstrators than high-ranking individuals, although this greater
attention did not result in greater success. We conclude that wild and captive hyenas exploit social learning
opportunities similarly, and that the limited social learning shown by hyenas on this task is likely
based on localized stimulus enhancement.

Source: 
Behavioural Processes, 109, 111-120
Citation: 
Benson-Amram, S., Heinen, V.K., Gessner, A., Weldele, M.L., and Holekamp, K.E. 2014. Limited social learning of a novel technical problem by spotted hyenas. Behavioural Processes, 109, 111-120.