Collective Motion and Decision-making in Animal Groups

Collective organization is everywhere, both around us and within us. Our brains are composed of billions of interconnected cells communicating with chemical and electrical signals. Our bodies are formed from clustering, communicating cells, and we ourselves are integrated in our own collective human society. Elsewhere in the natural world hundreds of thousands of blind army ants coordinate a massive raid across the rainforest floor, a flock of birds arcs and ripples while descending to roost and a fish school convulses, as if one entity, when attacked by a predator. How can animal groups move in unison? How does individual behaviour produce group dynamics? How do animal societies make informed unanimous decisions? From ant swarms to flocking birds, from consensus decision-making in fish schools to that among humans, I will discuss how, and why, coordinated collective patterns are generated in biological systems.

Iain Couzin, Oxford University, United Kingdom

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