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First demonstration of 'teaching' in non-human animals

between them gets too small, the leader accelerates and the follower decelerates.

It is as if the leader is towing the follower but the process is highly intermittent because the follower is dictating the speed of the lesson by stopping frequently to consolidate its growing knowledge of the path that it has taken.

Tandem leaders pay a cost because they would normally have reached the food around four times faster if not hampered by a follower. But the benefit is that the follower learns where the food is much quicker than it would have done independently. Tandem followers learn their lessons so well that they often become tandem leaders and in this way time-saving information flows through the ant colony.

Richardson added: "This behaviour is beautifully simple. If one experimentally removes the follower and taps the leader with a hair at a rate of two times per second or more, the leader will continue."

The occurrence of teaching in ants indicates that teaching can evolve in animals with tiny brains. It is probably the value of information in social animals that determines when teaching will evolve, rather the constraints of brain size.


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Contact: Cherry Lewis
cherry.lewis@bristol.ac.uk
44-117-928-8086
University of Bristol
11-Jan-2006


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