Two heads are better than one

It’s been said that “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”. This is meant to be disparaging, but I’m on the camel’s side. Sure, they’re not as pretty as a horse and they’re never going to win any design awards, but they come with loads of great, user-friendly features.

And according to recent research by scientists at the University of Sydney, some committees, specifically groups of social animals, can make better and faster decisions than solo individuals (Ward AJW, Herbert-Read JE, Sumpter DJT & Krause J 2011, “Fast and accurate decisions through collective vigilance in fish shoals”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, doi:10.1073/pnas.1007102108).

Eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki
Mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki, introduced to Australia to control mosquitoes but now a pest - although they're terribly good at collective decision-making (Image by Osado, via Wikimedia Commons)
The team, led by Associate Professor Ashley Ward, found that groups of more than 8 mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki, could choose which of two tunnels didn’t have a predator twice as fast and nearly twice as accurately as single fish.

Read more about their research, the real social network.


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