Relationship between individual and group learning in a marine teleost: A case study with sea bass under self-feeding conditions

Type Article
Date 2017-09
Language English
Author(s) Benhaim David1, 2, Ferrari Sebastien1, 2, Colchen Tatiana3, Chatain Beatrice4, Begout Marie-LaureORCID5
Affiliation(s) 1 : Normandie Univ, UNICAEN, LUSAC, Lab Univ Sci Appl Cherbourg, F-50100 Cherbourg, France.
2 : Intechmer, Conservatoire Natl Arts & Metiers, F-50100 Cherbourg, France.
3 : Univ Lorraine, Unite Rech Anim & Fonct Prod Anim, USC INRA 340, F-54506 Vandoeuvre Les Nancy 09, France.
4 : Ifremer, Stn Expt Aquaculture, UMR MARBEC 9190, Chemin Maguelone, F-34250 Palavas Les Flots, France.
5 : Ifremer, Pl Gaby Coll, F-17137 Lhoumeau, France.
Source Learning & Behavior (1543-4494) (Springer), 2017-09 , Vol. 45 , N. 3 , P. 276-286
DOI 10.3758/s13420-017-0266-1
WOS© Times Cited 4
Keyword(s) Operant conditioning, Group conditions, Social structure, Producer-scrounger, Personality traits, Positive reinforcement

Fish learning and cognition are usually approached by testing single individuals in various devices such as mazes that have serious drawbacks, especially in gregarious species, including the stress induced by the test procedure. This might impair the results and lead to misinterpretation about the learning abilities of the targeted species. In order to provide an alternative to the individual-based tests, we investigated for the first time the operant conditioning of four similar groups (50 individuals per tank) of sea bass. We used two computerized self-feeder devices per tank, each coupled with individual electronic identification and that were alternately activated during varying positive appetitive reinforcement period of time (7 to 1 day). Learning abilities were examined at both group and individual levels. At the group level, the operant conditioning was demonstrated as the triggering activity significantly decreased when the device was turned off and increased when it was turned on, whatever the reinforcement period duration. The individual level analysis revealed a more complex situation with fish showing different learning performances that can be best explained through the producer-scrounger game theory.

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