Landing together: How flocks arrive at a coherent action in time and space in the presence of perturbations
Collective motion is abundant in nature, producing a vast amount of phenomena which have been studied in recent years, including the landing of flocks of birds. We investigate the collective decision making scenario where a flock of birds decides the optimal time of landing in the absence of a global leader. We introduce a simple phenomenological model in the spirit of the statistical mechanics-based self-propelled particles (SPPs) approach to interpret this process. We expect that our model is applicable to a larger class of spatiotemporal decision making situations than just the landing of flocks (which process is used as a paradigmatic case). In the model birds are only influenced by observable variables, like position and velocity. Heterogeneity is introduced in the flock in terms of a depletion time after which a bird feels increasing bias to move towards the ground. Our model demonstrates a possible mechanism by which animals in a large group can arrive at an egalitarian decision about the time of switching from one activity to another in the absence of a leader. In particular, we show the existence of a paradoxical effect where noise enhances the coherence of the landing process.
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Volume (Year): 391 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
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