Research field: Self-organization in social systems
We are interested in all aspects of self-organisation in social systems. In our models we try to produce complex phenomena by self-organisation as a side-effect of interactions of individuals with their environment. At present our focus is on predatory attacks of schools of fish and flocks of birds and on social systems of birds and primates.
A fundamental evolutionary question is whether and how the guidance strategy of birds of prey during aerial hunting has been shaped by natural selection. To answer this, we need to integrate mechanism and function in an evolutionary study (Evo-mecho approach). For this, we use a computational model within the framework of complexity science. Our aim is to:
1. Gain insight how evolution may have shaped the prey-targeting
system depending on the prey’s biomechanics and
2. elucidate the interplay between pursuit-evasion tactics, behavioural timing, biomechanics, flight control, prey-targeting and catch rate,
3. generate and verify predictions in real raptors in cooperation with the Oxford Animal Flight Group, UK.
Collective escape by swarms
From the perspective of the prey, we aim to gain understanding about collective patterns of escape. In a combined modeling and empirical study in cooperation with University of Toulouse, France, we investigate the collective response of a school of fish when being attacked by a predator. Our aim is to:
1. Gain insight in the process of transmission of information
about the predator,
2. elucidate how the different kinds of escape response relate to the strategy of the predator and the collective pattern of escape of prey, and
3. find out by what behavior the prey confuses the predator.
Energetic advantages of schooling
In fish schools we study the hydrodynamic effects and energetic benefits of schooling.
Social behavior in primates and corvids
In primates we are investigating the self-organisation of inter-sexual dominance. We develop new measures of dominance style.
Evolution at multiple scales
Using the example of mother-infant carrying we study evolution at multiple scales in computational models with the University of St Andrews, UK.