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Understanding dynamics of information transmission in Drosophila melanogaster using a statistical modeling framework for longitudinal network data (the RSiena package)

Pasquaretta, Cristian and Klenschi, Elizabeth and Pansanel, Jerome and Battesti, Marine and Mery, Frederic and Sueur, Cedric (2016) Understanding dynamics of information transmission in Drosophila melanogaster using a statistical modeling framework for longitudinal network data (the RSiena package). Frontiers in Psychology, 7. pp. 1-11. ISSN 1664-1078

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Social learning – the transmission of behaviors through observation or interaction with conspecifics – can be viewed as a decision-making process driven by interactions among individuals. Animal group structures change over time and interactions among individuals occur in particular orders that may be repeated following specific patterns, change in their nature, or disappear completely. Here we used a stochastic actor-oriented model built using the RSiena package in R to estimate individual behaviors and their changes through time, by analyzing the dynamic of the interaction network of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster during social learning experiments. In particular, we re-analyzed an experimental dataset where uninformed flies, left free to interact with informed ones, acquired and later used information about oviposition site choice obtained by social interactions. We estimated the degree to which the uninformed flies had successfully acquired the information carried by informed individuals using the proportion of eggs laid by uninformed flies on the medium their conspecifics had been trained to favor. Regardless of the degree of information acquisition measured in uninformed individuals, they always received and started interactions more frequently than informed ones did. However, information was efficiently transmitted (i.e., uninformed flies predominantly laid eggs on the same medium informed ones had learn to prefer) only when the difference in contacts sent between the two fly types was small. Interestingly, we found that the degree of reciprocation, the tendency of individuals to form mutual connections between each other, strongly affected oviposition site choice in uninformed flies. This work highlights the great potential of RSiena and its utility in the studies of interaction networks among non-human animals.