Self-organization of collective escape in pigeon flocks

Marina Papadopoulou*, Hanno Hildenbrandt, Daniel W.E. Sankey, Steven J. Portugal, Charlotte K. Hemelrijk

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

2 Citaten (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Bird flocks under predation demonstrate complex patterns of collective escape. These patterns may emerge by self-organization from local interactions among group-members. Computational models have been shown to be valuable for identifying what behavioral rules may govern such interactions among individuals during collective motion. However, our knowledge of such rules for collective escape is limited by the lack of quantitative data on bird flocks under predation in the field. In the present study, we analyze the first GPS trajectories of pigeons in airborne flocks attacked by a robotic falcon in order to build a speciesspecific model of collective escape. We use our model to examine a recently identified distance- dependent pattern of collective behavior: The closer the prey is to the predator, the higher the frequency with which flock members turn away from it. We first extract from the empirical data of pigeon flocks the characteristics of their shape and internal structure (bearing angle and distance to nearest neighbors). Combining these with information on their coordination from the literature, we build an agent-based model adjusted to pigeons' collective escape. We show that the pattern of turning away from the predator with increased frequency when the predator is closer arises without prey prioritizing escape when the predator is near. Instead, it emerges through self-organization from a behavioral rule to avoid the predator independently of their distance to it. During this self-organization process, we show how flock members increase their consensus over which direction to escape and turn collectively as the predator gets closer. Our results suggest that coordination among flock members, combined with simple escape rules, reduces the cognitive costs of tracking the predator while flocking. Such escape rules that are independent of the distance to the predator can now be investigated in other species. Our study showcases the important role of computational models in the interpretation of empirical findings of collective behavior.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's25
TijdschriftPLoS Computational Biology
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
Vroegere onlinedatumjan-2022
StatusPublished - 10-jan-2022

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