Social learning is considered as the basis for traditions and culture. The rules underlying how a new behaviour spread in a whole group are still poorly known. With the aim to fill this gap, we conducted an open diffusion experiment with no trained model in which eight identical puzzle boxes that could be open through two different opening techniques have been simultaneously proposed within two wild groups of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. The aim of this study was to test whether box opening techniques were socially transmitted between individuals and from whom monkeys learnt. Were related individuals, females, older individuals, or high-ranking individuals considered as preferred models? The data were analysed using a pioneering modelling approach named Network Based Diffusion Analysis (NBDA) that consider the order with which individuals acquired the opening techniques. We found that individuals preferentially used techniques displayed by the individuals they watched evidencing that box opening techniques were socially transmitted and that they learnt from higher-ranked individuals. This study had the interest to combine field experiment and powerful Social Network Analyses that can shed new light on the evolution of culture.
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