"How animals make decisions in groups and coordinate their movements when travelling together has recently emerged as a hotly debated topic in behavioural science. Yet in spite of a strong theoretical framework, empirical studies of group decision-making remain limited. Here, we suggest a new model system, focusing specifically on collective decision-making during group navigation – king penguins. These birds make excellent subjects since they have both a clear tendency to group and a strong motivation to return to a specific location within the colony. We propose a series of field experiments on king penguin chicks to investigate mechanisms of group navigation and to test three central hypotheses: 1) navigational efficiency increases with group size; 2) the presence of experienced individuals affects navigational efficiency of the group; and 3) the size of navigational conflict affects the outcome of decision-making during group navigation. During the experiments, king penguin chicks will be displaced from their crèches and released in groups of different sizes and compositions. Subjects’ movements will be monitored at high spatial and temporal resolution by miniature GPS logging devices attached non-invasively to individual birds. Experimental data will be supplemented by field observations of natural crèche movements. We will use quantitative techniques developed by my host and her collaborators for an extensive and fine-grained comparative analysis of paths, and for exploring the dynamics of decisions made by individuals navigating both solo and in groups. Models of group navigation by king penguins will be developed and their outcome will be compared to the empirical data. In addition, during this project in collaboration with the Engineering Science department at Oxford, we will develop remotely detachable GPS loggers. Our results will provide important validation of the theories and new methodology for the studies of group navigation."
Call for proposal
See other projects for this call