The good, the bad, and the ugly: Who is really benefiting from moving in groups?

Dr Steve Portugal, Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, London

Thursday 14th June, 7.30 – 9pm

Steve is a comparative ecophysiologist.  He is Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Physiology at Royal Holloway, University of London.

His work focuses on how animals adapt their behaviour and ecology to the challenges of their environment, within the constraints of their own physiological and anatomical limitations. Such questions are particularly important in the light of global environmental change and exploitation of natural resources, in the emerging field of conservation physiology.

Many species are highly gregarious and form large groups. These groups can serve multiple functions, such as enhancing predator detection and increasing foraging efficiency. Another key feature of why animals live in groups can be the benefits brought during collective locomotion. Travelling in groups can provide aero- or hydro- dynamic benefits, while groups of animals are known to home quicker, and more efficiently, than individuals travelling alone. However, such benefits are not always distributed equally throughout group members, and some individuals within a group will be benefitting disproportionally from travelling in groups, while others may be experiencing negative consequences.  What determines how costs or benefits are distributed within a group is not fully understood, with both individual physiological and personality-based traits likely to play a role. This talk will present data looking at situations where benefits of travelling in groups are equally, and non-equally distributed amongst members, and examine the underlying causes (physiological, behavioural, morphological) of this variation. Using a combination of bio logging, respirometry and behavioural observations, case studies will focus on flocking in birds, the influence of dominance and social rank on movements in naked-mole rats, and how personality traits determine flock positioning in pigeons.