Central baboons acquire and use social information more frequently in wild networks (#847)
Social information allows the rapid dissemination of novel information among group members and can provide animals with an alternative to collecting costly personal information about their environment. The social network can positively influence individuals’ access to social information. However, though individuals may collect social information through their network connections, whether they use the acquired information may be limited by their phenotype. Thus, to understand how individuals make decisions using social information, both an individual’s acquisition and use of social information should be considered concurrently. We investigated whether individuals’ acquisition and use of social information was determined by their social network position and phenotype. We quantified the proximity and grooming networks of two troops of wild baboons, Chacma ursinus. We experimentally introduced 50 novel food patches of a highly preferred food to baboons as they were foraging naturally to quantify individuals’ acquisition, use and successful exploitation of social information about the location of the novel food patches. Individuals who were more central—had more or stronger connections with others—in the proximity networks were significantly more likely to acquire and use social information, but were not more likely to successfully exploit the food patches. Centrality in the grooming networks significantly predicted the frequency of social information use and successful exploitation of patches, though the effect size was always small. Individuals’ phenotypes were also important, but not for information acquisition: males used social information more frequently than females, and successful exploiters tended to be bolder, higher ranked and male. Our results suggest that (1) individuals’ social environments are important for their access to social information but that (2) individuals are limited by their phenotypes in whether and how they can use socially acquired information and (3) alternative social networks may influence the acquisition and use of social information. We suggest that to gain a better understanding of information use in animals, both information acquisition and its use be considered in future studies.