Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Group Decisions: From Compromise To Leadership In Pigeon Homing

Date:
November 10, 2006
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
By studying how homing pigeons decide between two attractive options -- following a habitual route home and flying in the company of another homing pigeon -- researchers have deepened our understanding of the forces that underlie decision-making by social animals. In the new study, the researchers used miniature GPS tracking devices to follow the homing flights of pairs of pigeons, where both individuals had their own, previously established preferred routes leading back to the loft.

By studying how homing pigeons decide between two attractive options--following a habitual route home and flying in the company of another homing pigeon--researchers have deepened our understanding of the forces that underlie decision-making by social animals. The findings are reported by a research group led by Dora Biro of the University of Oxford and appear in the November 7th issue of Current Biology.

Related Articles


Social animals have to make decisions that affect not just themselves, but everyone in the group. For example, when embarking on a journey together, individuals must agree on the route--a difficult task if group members cannot assess who are the best navigators or who is best informed about possible routes. Is a "democratic" average of everyone's opinion best? Or is it better to trust a leader? And what circumstances influence how animals decide which of these strategies to follow?

In the new study, the researchers used miniature GPS tracking devices to follow the homing flights of pairs of pigeons, where both individuals had their own, previously established preferred routes leading back to the loft. When the birds were released as a pair, and when the two preferred routes were not very different, the conflict between birds' preferences was resolved by a mutual compromise in which both birds flew by an intermediate route. When preferred routes of the two birds differed greatly, however, the compromise position was replaced by a scenario in which the preferred route of one bird--who would emerge as the "leader"--was followed by both birds for the rest of the journey.

Using a mathematical model to better understand the basis of the paired birds' navigation choices, the researchers found that both forms of decision-making could emerge from just two simple forces acting simultaneously on the pigeons' behavior: "move toward your familiar route" and "move toward your partner." In cases of small disagreements about the route, these two forces, or rules, lead to mutual compromise. However, when preferred routes are sufficiently different, behavior resembling compromise turns to behavior characterized by leadership as one bird abandons its own route to instead follow that of its partner. The outcome of the mathematical modeling therefore indicated that compromise and leadership are two outcomes of the same decision-making process.

In another aspect of the study, the analysis of pigeon behavior showed that birds flying in pairs seem to take more efficient routes home than those flying alone, suggesting that in addition to safety in numbers, traveling in the company of others brings navigational benefits to individual group members.

Biro et al.: "From Compromise to Leadership in Pigeon Homing." Publishing in Current Biology, 16, 2123--2128, November 7, 2006 DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2006.08.087 http://www.current-biology.com

The researchers include Dora Biro, David J.T. Sumpter, Jessica Meade, and Tim Guilford of the University of Oxford. This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Royal Society.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Group Decisions: From Compromise To Leadership In Pigeon Homing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106145043.htm>.
Cell Press. (2006, November 10). Group Decisions: From Compromise To Leadership In Pigeon Homing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106145043.htm
Cell Press. "Group Decisions: From Compromise To Leadership In Pigeon Homing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061106145043.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins