Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Herding sheep really are selfish

Date:
July 23, 2012
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Many animals spend time together in large groups not because they enjoy each other's company, but rather because it lowers their own chances of being eaten should an uninvited guest arrive on the scene. Now, researchers who have strapped GPS-enabled backpacks to flocking sheep and a herding dog provide some of the first hard evidence that this "selfish herd theory" is true.

Many animals spend time together in large groups not because they enjoy each other's company, but rather because it lowers their own chances of being eaten should an uninvited guest arrive on the scene -- or so the theory goes. Now, researchers who have strapped GPS-enabled backpacks to flocking sheep and a herding dog provide some of the first hard evidence that this "selfish herd theory" is true.
Credit: King et al., Current Biology Volume 22 Issue 14

Many animals spend time together in large groups not because they enjoy each other's company, but rather because it lowers their own chances of being eaten should an uninvited guest arrive on the scene -- or so the theory goes. Now, researchers who have strapped GPS-enabled backpacks to flocking sheep and a herding dog provide some of the first hard evidence that this "selfish herd theory" is true.

Related Articles


The findings appear in the July 24th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"We were able to track the movements of the sheep and the dog that pursued them on a second-by-second basis simultaneously," said Andrew King of The Royal Veterinary College, University of London. "In each case, we found that the sheep exhibit a strong attraction towards the center of the flock as the dog approaches," an effort to avoid the more dangerous fringe.

The selfish herd has long been a favorite explanation for grouping behavior, the researchers say. But tracking the concerted movements of many individual animals at once and predicting a predator's attack is not easy to do. As a result, there had been little semblance of proof.

The data now suggest that individual sheep under threat move continuously toward the center of the flock while the flock as a whole moves away from the threat. "It's kind of continuously folding in on itself," King says. The researchers were able to recreate that folding pattern using simple math.

Some members of the flock do seem to come out better than others, King added. Whether that's a matter of luck or ability the researchers can't yet say, though they are giving the sheep physical fitness and personality tests to look for predictable patterns. They also want to sort out the "rules" the sheep follow in order to move in such a remarkable and orchestrated way.

It turns out the new findings might even shed light on neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's, King says, noting that sheep are a popular model for the study of that devastating human condition. "We wanted to establish a baseline of 'normal' sheep social behavior, from which others can pinpoint the onset and progression of abnormal behaviors that may be associated with locomotor or cognitive deficits," King says.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew J. King, Alan M. Wilson, Simon D. Wilshin, John Lowe, Hamed Haddadi, Stephen Hailes, A. Jennifer Morton. Selfish-herd behaviour of sheep under threat. Current Biology, 2012; 22 (14): R561 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.05.008

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Herding sheep really are selfish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723134627.htm>.
Cell Press. (2012, July 23). Herding sheep really are selfish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723134627.htm
Cell Press. "Herding sheep really are selfish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120723134627.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lions Make Surprise Comeback in Gabon

Lions Make Surprise Comeback in Gabon

AFP (Mar. 30, 2015) Lions have made a comeback in southeast Gabon, after disappearing for years, according to live footage from US wildlife organisation Panthera. Duration: 00:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

New Arthropod Fossil Might Be Relative Of Spiders, Scorpions

Newsy (Mar. 29, 2015) A 508-million-year-old arthropod that swam in the Cambrian seas is thought to share a common ancestor with spiders and scorpions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

Vietnam Rice Boom Piles Pressure on Farmers and the Environment

AFP (Mar. 29, 2015) Vietnam&apos;s drive to become the world&apos;s leading rice exporter is pushing farmers in the fertile Mekong Delta to the brink, say experts, with mounting costs to the environment. Duration: 02:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) A lioness in Pakistan has given birth to five cubs, twice the usual size of a litter. Queen gave birth to two other cubs just nine months ago. (March 27) Video provided by AP
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