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Friday, March 16, 2018

Scientists have figured out how many monkeys do you need for “revolution”

Monitor the bunch of baboons showed that only four or five “agents provocateurs” is enough to completely destabilize the community of the five dozen monkeys and get him to join in a mass fight “wall to wall”.

“Many of the systems existing in nature, are constantly at the critical point equilibrium. This helps them to adapt to new environment and rebuild himself, but their strength decreases. We realized on the example of the pack of macaques as it is possible to find this critical point and how to manage it” — say Brian Daniels (Bryan Daniels) from the University of Arizona in Tempe (USA) and his colleagues.

A gregarious or collective species of animals have developed during the evolution of surprisingly complex behaviour strategies that they can flexibly change on the fly depending on the current situation. For example, flocks of birds can not only fly in the form of a wedge or line, but “falling to pieces” for the area, if they encounter predators. The same behavior exhibited by fish and dolphins have developed a unique group of tactics of hunting them.

As Daniels explains, the secret to this flexibility in the behavior of animals is that their community actually reside on the border between stability and instability – is fundamentally different modes of behavior. The main feature of the first is conformity to social norms and the predominance of “collective” forms of behavior, and the second “rebellion” against those norms and individual behavior.

How operate such systems in groups of animals that have no internal hierarchy, scientists studied well in the past years, however, a complex, hierarchically arranged groups remained a mystery to them. The authors filled this gap, watching a large group of four dozens of macaques living in the National nursery of the Yerkes Primate in LAWRENCEVILLE (USA) for about six months.

Among the monkeys, during this time, often flashed a small local conflicts, involving two or three individuals. After a while they calmed down or their separated relatives, and the life of the colony of macaques was returning to normal. But sometimes, as shown by the observations of Daniels and his colleagues, there is a “total” conflicts, involving more than 30 individuals and often all members of the pack. Trying to figure out why they occurred, the researchers analyzed the data they collected data on the behavior of monkeys by using methods used today for the calculation of quantum processes in physics.

According to the biologist, his team considered three possible options for the development of “riots” – a completely random character, when the animals come to blows just so, or the result of any tactical or strategic considerations. Each of these theories they tested to move their virtual flocks of monkeys and comparing their behavior with data from real observations of primates.

As it turned out, the balance in the pack was broken and a mass brawl occurred because of tactical reasons in that case, if a group of monkeys is a small group of rival monkeys, which has a sufficiently strong social bonds. In this case, the mass conflict can occur even when the “revolt” begins with a fight of all the three influential individuals.

In this case, is something like what physicists call a phase transition – monkeys dramatically change their behavior under the influence of similar individuals, and this process is very quickly affects the whole animal collective, forcing him to engage in a mass brawl for no apparent reason.

This feature of societies of animals, as scientists believe, helps them to adapt quickly to new environment and make collective decisions with a lack of information and a large number of opinions, even though the cost of higher exposure to mass “riots”. In some cases, for example, in flocks of chimpanzees, the animals have even learned to control the position of this critical point, having developed a tradition of maintaining order in the group of special individuals-“arbitrators” who have no interest in the conflict between two other monkeys.

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