In a baboon group, any member can set the direction - not just the highest-ranking animal
Baboons live together in hierarchical groups. However, important decisions are not dictated by the highest-ranking group members but are instead made democratically. This was discovered by a team of scientists including Iain Couzin from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell.
The researchers monitored the movements of a baboon community using GPS devices with to-the-second precision. This enabled them to observe how the animals make decisions and the direction in which the group moves.
The process is triggered by individuals who propose a direction. If opinions are divided, the undecided baboons follow the majority. This process is entirely democratic and takes place irrespective of which direction the dominant animals have chosen.
Olive baboons are incredibly agile. It is practically impossible to follow them for long periods of time and observe their decision-making. This explains why researchers were previously unable to discover how the animals deal with conflicts of interest and who makes the decisions in the hierarchically structured groups. “What’s fascinating about baboons is that they do absolutely everything together and therefore always have to reach a compromise,” explains Iain Couzin.
The researchers attached GPS transmitters to the animals and documented the movements of each individual baboon. A computer then used this data to calculate how the monkeys decide on a direction during their forays through the Kenyan savannah.
Some individuals propose a route by moving away from the group; the more of these initiators who purposefully chose the same direction, the greater the probability that the remainder of the group will follow them. The preference of the highest-ranking animal did not matter to the baboons. “The alpha animal did not therefore decide dictatorially, but the group instead makes democratic decisions,” says Couzin.
The situation where around the same number of animals wanted to head in different directions often arose. It then depended upon the angle between them. If this was less than 90° then the remaining animals chose the middle path. However, if the angle was greater, they selected one of the directions available based on the random principle.
Iain Couzin theoretically predicted this behaviour ten years ago but even he was a little surprised: “I am astonished that the predictions about an extremely complex community are so accurate. But it’s wonderful how everything has fitted together and that the observations have confirmed our calculations.”
The evaluation of the GPS data was extremely complicated and took several years. “It was difficult for us to understand when the baboons were trying to influence one another and when not,” Couzin points out. Couzin and his cooperation partners therefore flew to Kenya together to observe the animals in their natural habitat. “We would never have been able to develop our algorithm without these field studies, and without the algorithm we could never have understood how the decision-making process works,” Couzin sums up.
One part of the puzzle is nevertheless still missing - the influence of the terrain. The scientists are therefore now deploying a drone to produce a detailed, three-dimensional map from the air. Couzin explains: “We believe that information about the environment could provide us with very different insights into the animals’ social behaviour.”
Prof. Iain D. Couzin, Ph.D.
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell), Radolfzell
Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin, Damien R. Farine, Iain D. Couzin, Margaret C. Crofoot
Shared decision-making drives collective movement in wild baboons
Science; June 19, 2015
Prof. Iain D. Couzin, Ph.D. | Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell), Radolfzell
Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University
Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017
25.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences