Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Baboons follow the majority

21.07.2015

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.


No squabbling on holidays: baboons make democratic decisions about their travel routes.

© mhgallery/123RF

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.”


Contact

Prof. Iain D. Couzin, Ph.D.
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Radolfzell), Radolfzell

Email: icouzin@orn.mpg.de


Original publication
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

Further reports about: GPs Max Planck Institute Ornithology algorithm baboons decision-making movements

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>