Copycat dynamics in leaderless animal group navigation

Edward Codling, Nikolai Bode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

13 Citations (Scopus)


Many animals are known to have improved navigational efficiency when moving together as a social group. One potential mechanism for social group navigation is known as the ‘many wrongs principle’, where information from many inaccurate compasses is pooled across the group. In order to understand how animal groups may use the many wrongs principle to navigate, it is important to consider how directional information is transferred and shared within the group.

Here we use an individual-based model to explore the information-sharing and copying dynamics of a leaderless animal group navigating towards a target in a virtual environment. We assume that communication and information-sharing is indirect and arises through individuals partially copying the movement direction of their neighbours and weighting this information relative to their individual navigational knowledge.

We find that the best group navigation performance occurs when individuals directly copy the direction of movement of a subset of their neighbours while only giving a small (6%) weighting to their individual navigational knowledge. Surprisingly, such a strategy is shown to be highly efficient regardless of the level of individual navigational error. We find there is little relative improvement in navigational efficiency when individuals copy from more than 7 influential neighbours.

Our findings suggest that we would expect navigating group-living animals to predominantly copy the movement of others rather than relying on their own navigational knowledge. We discuss our results in the context of individual and group navigation behaviour in animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalMovement Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2014

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