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Collective movement in wild baboons

With: Meg Crofoot, Damien Farine, Tanya Berger-Wolf, Iain Couzin

To stay together, animal groups on the move must come to a consensus about where and when to go, despite the fact that individual preferences may often conflict. Resolving these conflicts effectively is essential for animals that live in stable, socially-complex societies, such as baboons. How are these movement decisions reached? This research aims to reveal the factors that determine where baboons move. For instance, how is a baboon's decision of where to go next influenced by where the other members of its troop have gone in the past? And to what extent is its decision impacted by environmental structure such as vegetation and roads? And ultimately, how do the movement decisions of individual baboons scale up to produce the patterns of movement we see at the group level? To address these questions, we are using GPS tracking data on the movements of the majority of baboons within a single troop, a 3-dimensional map of their environment, and quantitative analyses to tease apart the different influences on movement.

Key Topics

Consensus decision-making: How shared or unshared are baboons' decisions about where to move?

Group spatial organization: Do individuals occupy particular spatial positions within the group, and if so how do they maintain those positions? 

Movement transitions: How do individuals decide when to stop or go, and how does this scale-up to group-level coordination?

Habitat influences on collective movement: How do individual baboons integrate habitat and social information when making movement decisions? How does habitat structure affect group structure and movement at the collective level?

Baboon collective movement: Each dot represents a single baboon within the troop. 
Background shows Google Earth imagery of where the baboons were.

Habitat flyover: Visualization of 3-dimensional (point cloud) reconstruction the baboons' habitat

Combining GPS tracks and habitat data: Visualization of baboon movement data overlaid on 3-dimensional habitat reconstruction