Departmental Seminar at CES on 1 March 2023 at 10:30 am titled "Anti-predatory benefits of collective motion" by Vivek Jadhav from IISc
Animal groups across taxa -- from insects and birds to fish and mammals -- exhibit a high degree of synchrony in their movement. Various empirical, computational and theoretical studies over the past two decades focus on how simple mechanisms produce these large-scale fascinating patterns. While a large number of empirical and theoretical studies examine the so-called proximate aspects of collective motion, only a few of them have investigated the functional or evolutionary significance. An important hypothesis for the function of group-living is that of reduced risks of predation. We hypothesise that not just group living but synchrony of group movement facilitates reduced risk of predation. For my PhD thesis, we will study this using theory and computational models in close collaboration with empirical work. We will employ empirically motivated computational spatial explicit models to study how anti-predatory behaviours at the level of individuals -- and crucially, flocking interactions among individuals -- result in collective escape dynamics of flocks. We will compute the effectiveness of information transfer via metrics such as spatial and temporal correlation measures or transfer entropy-based measures. We will compare how the efficiency of information transfer depends on the type of flocking interactions -- for example, when agents only interact stochastically with one of the near neighbours (as suggested by recent empirical studies) versus interaction with multiple neighbours (as suggested in classic physics-inspired modelling studies). These findings will later be compared with the results of empirical studies led by my colleagues in the lab to examine if the type of interaction (with just one neighbour or multiple neighbours) changes during collective escape dynamics. In summary, through this thesis, we will shed light on the functional importance of collective motion and the evolution of collective movement in both predators and prey. Through these models and empirical studies, we will gain insights on information transfer among collectively moving organisms, a topic with relevance in many ecological scenarios, ranging from foraging, predation to even human crowds.