"Social learning" may be helping invasive species thrive worldwide: Aussie research

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-17 09:58:24|Editor: Xiang Bo
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SYDNEY, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- The invasive Italian Wall Lizard thrives in its new home in part by observing and learning from the same and other species, major skills that may show how animals gain an edge in unfamiliar environments amid globalization, according to a latest Australian research.

The Italian Wall Lizard is the most abundant species of its kind in southern Italy and has been widely introduced to other places such as the United States and Turkey.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Macquarie University researchers explained how they trained a range of lizards to find worms in colored containers, then observed whether the green-hued Italian Wall Lizards could find the worms just by watching the other lizards do it. They found the reptiles could not only learn from watching their own kind, but also other species of lizard.

The research, which also involved Sydney's University of New South Wales, showed "for the first time that a well-known invasive species... is capable of social learning from both the same and different species. We suggest that this may give invasive species an edge in novel, unfamiliar environments."

Getting access to such "social learning" meant the invasive lizards "made fewer errors" and showed that the "watch and learn" process "could be a previously underappreciated, advantageous mechanism facilitating invasions," according to the findings published in the Biology Letters scientific journal.

"In an era of globalization, species are increasingly being accidentally introduced into new locations far from home," said the researchers.

"Most unintended invasions don't take hold, but some do. Understanding the mechanisms governing invasion success is of great benefit to managing and preventing invasions."