UW Aquatic & Fishery Sciences Quantitative Seminar

Bertrand Lemasson

Columbia Basin Research, UW Aquatic & Fishery Sciences

Information processing in collective animal behavior


Certain animal groups (e.g., schools of fish, flocks of birds) can display a mesmerizing degree of synchronization in their collective motion. Some of the group level patterns generated by such individual interactions have been successfully modeled using molecular processes governed by behavioral trends. Yet, determining what criteria the constituents use to identify influential neighbors remains unresolved. Tangentially, how do group members manage to identify pertinent stimuli while integrating dynamic movement signals?  Here we approach these questions from a sensory perspective because information processing is an essential currency of adaptive behaviors.

Biological processes capable of governing adaptive behaviors include signal perception, thresholds and simple decision filters.  Here we combine these mechanisms with a physical particle model by using simplified neurobiological processes.  Neighbor movement patterns are weighted by visual perception and the degree of redundant information. Visual thresholds then provide a mechanism by which the constituents can vary their sets of influential neighbors, a proxy for the individual's sensory load.  Sensory loads are juxtaposed with group-level statistics and we discuss their adaptive values in an ecological context.  The model also demonstrates how motion sensitivity can enhance a constituent's ability to identify, and rapidly respond to, novel visual stimuli.

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