Protein deficiency magnifies social influence on the food choices of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus).
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The food choices of protein-deprived juvenile rats were more profoundly affected by interaction with conspecifics than were the food choices of protein-replete juvenile rats. When choosing among four different-flavored, protein-deficient diets, protein-deprived rats ate significantly more of the diet eaten by a conspecific demonstrator than did protein-replete rats. These data suggest that the food choices of the relatively less successful members of a population are most affected by social interaction. Consequently, the mean effect of social interaction on diet selection in a population of Norway rats is likely to be positive.
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