Collective Logic Lab

Our new paper on criticality in fish schools is published

Posted June 2022 by Bryan Daniels

Limiting the viral spread of information in fish schools

When one animal's behavior influences the behavior of its neighbors, changes can quickly spread through a group. Theory predicts that information spreads most easily when the strength of this influence is close to a critical value. Many living systems, from neurons in brains to birds in a flock, appear to be tuned near this special value.

To look for this phenomenon in fish schools, we studied the spreading of startling behavior, which helps fish escape from predators. Surprisingly, we found that the schools are far from optimal in transmitting information across the school. Instead, fish limit this behavioral spreading, likely because it helps to ignore false alarms.

This behavior of fish may inspire us to think differently about other living systems, including our own human social networks: How can we balance potential drawbacks against the benefits of easy viral spreading of information and ideas?

A shout out goes to Winnie Poel, the recent PhD graduate who (tirelessly and meticulously) did most of the work on this project, as well as my other wonderful fish and collective behavior collaborators who worked on this: Matt Sosna, Colin Twomey, Simon Leblanc, Iain Couzin, and Pawel Romanczuk.

Check out the details in Science Advances:

Category: News