Dominance and Social Information Use in a Lizard

Anim Cogn. 2017 Sep;20(5):805-812. doi: 10.1007/s10071-017-1101-y. Epub 2017 Jun 2.


There is mounting evidence that social learning is not just restricted to group-living animals, but also occurs in species with a wide range of social systems. However, we still have a poor understanding of the factors driving individual differences in social information use. We investigated the effects of relative dominance on social information use in the eastern water skink (Eulamprus quoyii), a species with age-dependent social learning. We used staged contests to establish dominant-subordinate relationships in pairs of lizards and tested whether observers use social information to more quickly solve both an association and reversal learning task in situations where the demonstrator was either dominant or subordinate. Surprisingly, we found no evidence of social information use, irrespective of relative dominance between observer and demonstrator. However, dominant lizards learnt at a faster rate than subordinate lizards in the associative learning task, although there were no significant differences in the reversal task. In light of previous work in this species, we suggest that age may be a more important driver of social information use because demonstrators and observers in our study were closely size-matched and were likely to be of similar age.

Keywords: Private information; Reptile; Social learning; Social rank; Social status.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Reversal Learning
  • Social Dominance*
  • Social Learning