The role of individual variation in the behaviour of animal groups

31 October 2016 - By: Dr Shaun Killen & Dr Stefano Marras

The role of individual variation in the behaviour of animal groups

By Dr Shaun Killen, University of Glasgow & Dr Stefano Marras, IAMC-CNR, Italy

The last year has seen a shift toward understanding individual variation in animal behaviour and physiology within the context of social interactions. Depending on the situation, social forces appear capable of overriding or even amplifying existing variation among individuals. Our exciting session explored the role of individual variability in the functioning of animal groups, including maternal effects on social behaviours, the mechanics of leadership and movement within animal collectives, social conformity and individual habitat selection, spatial and temporal heterogeneity in animal groups, interspecific social interactions, and relationships between individual energy demand and group behaviours. An emerging theme is that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of our understanding of how individual physiology in particular may modulate links between individuals and their social environment. The recent research focus on intraspecific variability has revealed important insights into physiological and behavioural ecology, but we expect a surge in work that will extend the paradigm to include the behaviour of animal groups. Given that nearly all animals live within social groups at some point during their lives, the interplay between individual variation and group dynamics will be key for understanding the responses of wild animals to factors such as climate change.

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Category: Animal Biology