Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bizarre bird behavior predicted by game theory

26.02.2009
A team of scientists, led by the University of Exeter, has used game theory to explain the bizarre behaviour of a group of ravens. Juvenile birds from a roost in North Wales have been observed adopting the unusual strategy of foraging for food in 'gangs'.

New research, published in the journal PLoS One (on Wednesday 25 February 2009), explains how this curious behaviour can be predicted by adapting models more commonly used by economists to analyse financial trends.

This is the first time game theory has been used to successfully predict novel animal behaviour in the real world. The researchers believe this analysis could also shed light on the variation in feeding strategies in different populations in other species.

Ravens feed on the carcasses of large animals. Most populations live in temperate forests, where individuals search for carcasses and finds are then defended by a pair of territorial adults. Unpaired younger birds, on the other hand, gather at communal roosts from which they search individually for carcasses on adult territories and recruit each other to overwhelm adult protectionism. However, at one raven roost on Anglesey, things work differently: juveniles forage in gangs. This level of coordination had not been seen before in a raven population.

The researchers built a mathematical model to understand how this behaviour evolved and why it might occur in some roosts and not others. The model designed for this study was based on techniques used in other game theory models, which identify the most profitable behaviours of individuals in different situations to predict what would be favoured by evolution.

The study revealed two strategies as being most profitable for ravens to find food. One is for birds to search independently for food and recruit each other. The other is for the birds to forage in gangs.

The findings showed that gang foraging should occur when searching for food individually is no more efficient than foraging in groups. This is likely to be the case if the roost covers landscape that can be thoroughly explored by a gang over the course of a day. The deforested Welsh countryside offers just such conditions.

The study also identifies the availability of food as a key factor. The roost in Anglesey is situated in an agricultural area, which means that the carcasses of farm animals are often available so food is more plentiful than in wild locations. When food is abundant, the opportunity for social advancement becomes more important. These ravens seem to be using foraging behaviour, not only to find food, but also to gain social status, which could help in other aspects of their lives, including finding a mate.

Lead author Dr Sasha Dall of the University of Exeter said: "This is a rare example of how game theory has been used to predict behaviour in animals in the real world. Our study shows the potential for game theory to help biologists understand how different social structures and behaviours evolve in different environments and in response to human activities."

This study, entitled Rich pickings near large communal roosts favour 'gang' foraging by juvenile common ravens, Corvus corax, was carried out by a team from the University of Exeter's Cornwall Campus and the Institute of Biology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.

Sarah Hoyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.exeter.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>