Knowledgeable Lemurs Become More Central in Social Networks

Ipek G. Kulahci, Asif A. Ghazanfar, Daniel Ian Rubenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Strong relationships exist between social connections and information transmission [1–9], where individuals’ network position plays a key role in whether or not they acquire novel information [2, 3, 5, 6]. The relationships between social connections and information acquisition may be bidirectional if learning novel information, in addition to being influenced by it, influences network position. Individuals who acquire information quickly and use it frequently may receive more affiliative behaviors [10, 11] and may thus have a central network position. However, the potential influence of learning on network centrality has not been theoretically or empirically addressed. To bridge this epistemic gap, we investigated whether ring-tailed lemurs’ (Lemur catta) centrality in affiliation networks changed after they learned how to solve a novel foraging task. Lemurs who had frequently initiated interactions and approached conspecifics before the learning experiment were more likely to observe and learn the task solution. Comparing social networks before and after the learning experiment revealed that the frequently observed lemurs received more affiliative behaviors than they did before—they became more central after the experiment. This change persisted even after the task was removed and was not caused by the observed lemurs initiating more affiliative behaviors. Consequently, quantifying received and initiated interactions separately provides unique insights into the relationships between learning and centrality. While the factors that influence network position are not fully understood, our results suggest that individual differences in learning and becoming successful can play a major role in social centrality, especially when learning from others is advantageous. Social network position influences if and when animals learn from conspecifics. Kulahci et al. show that learning influences network position and that bidirectional relationships exist between the two. Lemurs who learn how to solve a novel task, and solve it while being observed by others, receive more affiliation and become central after learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1306-1310.e2
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 23 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Lemur catta
  • information acquisition
  • information transmission
  • learning
  • network metrics
  • ring-tailed lemur
  • social centrality
  • social network analysis


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