Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Coming together or doing it for themselves? The apparent paradox of social information and individuality in foraging

Project description

Studying the paradox of social interaction in animals

Social interaction plays a significant role in most evolutionary and ecological changes and actions, including but not restricted to foraging. Social interactions cause the development of thorough individuality in animals, especially concerning their diet and location selection, due to sharing of social information. This factor contradicts the prevalent belief that sociality endorses a lack of individuality in animals, providing us with a paradox. The EU-funded IFSSOC project aims to study this paradox, deducing the effects of sociality and social interaction on animals’ individuality. To achieve this, the project’s research will focus on birds of the Sulidae family which exhibit mostly similar morphologies with geographic diversity.


Social interactions are fundamental for many ecological and evolutionary processes, including foraging. However, in many animals that use social information, a high degree of individuality in traits such as site and diet selection also exists. This represents an apparent paradox when sociality could potentially reduce individuality. Thus, it is unknown how these two processes interact to shape current and future foraging behaviour. For instance, can some animals become specialised in terms of social information use, or does group foraging erode individuality? This project will determine the interplay between the social and learned components of foraging, and levels of specialisation in habitat use and diet, across of range of seabirds in the Sulidae family (a morphologically constrained but geographically diverse group). State-of-the-art biologgers will be used to collect coupled video and GPS data to quantify the prevalence of group, solitary and commensal foraging in focal taxa representative of tropical and temperate environments, and link strategy to foraging success. State-space models, trained on coupled datasets, will be applied to long-term tracking data from nine Sulid species, to allow a family-scale comparison of specialisation. Through these focused analyses of individual foraging, this research action will enable predictions about the adaptive capabilities of populations to climate change, thus aligning with EU environmental priorities. The current skill set of the experienced researcher, together with a suite of newly acquired skills gained under tutelage of the strong supervisory partnership at host organisations, will make this timely research possible. This global, interdisciplinary project will result in high levels of knowledge exchange, foster international collaboration, and maximise the experienced researcher’s professional development, mobility and career potential, while addressing a fundamental question by combining two fields in bioscience.



Net EU contribution
€ 295 940,16
EH14 4AS Edinburgh
United Kingdom

See on map

Scotland Eastern Scotland Edinburgh
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Participants (1)

Partners (1)