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Scientists study complex animal movements

EDMONTON, Alberta, April 17 (UPI) -- Canadian scientists have determined one movement by a single animal can affect the movement of an entire group.

"It is known that there is a connection between the signals animals use to communicate with each other and their behavior," said Raluca Eftimie, a graduate student in the University of Alberta's Center for Mathematical Biology. "But until now, the connection between the complex spatial group patterns that we can see in nature and the different ways animals communicate has not been stated explicitly."

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People have long been puzzled how animals, such as fish and birds, can form large complex dynamic groups. Eftimie and her co-authors -- Mark Lewis and Gerda de Vries -- used a one-dimensional mathematical model to describe the phenomenon.

"It turns out the entire group can respond indirectly to a single individual, as each individual's movement response is a signal to its next neighbor," said Lewis. "By this method, signals are passed quickly from individual to individual. So for example, one fish turns, causing the next one to turn, then the next one, and so on."

The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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