The acquisition of behavior in animals is a function of both inheritance and learning, where learning can occur asocially (independent of other animals), socially (by observing other animals), or both. For species that have a prolonged parent–offspring relationship and that live solitary adult lives, social learning between parents and offspring may be a dominant form of learning. If parent–offspring learning is a dominant avenue for acquiring behavior or if behavior is inherited, then behaviors that confer significant fitness advantages should lead to subpopulations of genetically related individuals with similar behavioral patterns. We investigated whether food-conditioning behavior in black bears (Ursus americanus) is inherited or learned via parent–offspring social learning. We combined genetic data with behavioral data for 116 black bears from Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada, and Yosemite National Park, California. We categorized individual bears as food-conditioned or non–food-conditioned based on their behavior over a several-year period of intensive study at each site. We compared levels of relatedness, based on microsatellite DNA genotyping, within and between these groups and compared behavior between 9 mother–offspring pairs determined through genetic analysis of maternity. Based on 4 separate analyses of the data there was little evidence that food-conditioning behavior in black bears partitioned along related lineages, indicating that the acquisition of food conditioning behavior was not solely a function of social learning or inheritance.
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