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 New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources
29.05.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke
29.05.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>