Sioux Falls Zoologists

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!"

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training. (Sorry Kitty!)

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse The Gathering Swarms for showing
us that the collective intelligence behavior of swarms gives
its members a distinct survival advantage.

The Gathering Swarms
Bats, Butterflies, and more

The Gathering Swarms (2014) - 60 minutes
The Gathering Swarms at Amazon.com

A look at some of the planet's great gatherings, creatures that come together in inconceivable numbers- sometimes in millions, billions, and even trillions. Included are bats and bees, locust and ants, monarch butterflies in Mexico, 17-year cicada hatches, grunion in the Sea of Cortez and carp in the Mississippi River, sardine runs off the coast of South Africa, super flocks of parakeets in the Australian Outback, mayflies on the 4th of July, and even penguins and wildebeest. Some gather to breed or to migrate, some for protection, some simply to keep warm in the cold. But in the process, a kind of super-organism is created in which individual intelligence is superseded by a collective consciousness that shares information and moves with a single purpose for the benefit of all. Check out swarm intelligence, essentially a living embodiment of social media in the natural world.

8-29-20 Learning from the collective wisdom of animals
Lessons from animal group behavior could help humans better engineer our own future. In Frank Schätzing's 2004 sci-fi novel The Swarm, marine life develops a collective mind of its own. Whales band together to attack ships, while herds of jellyfish overwhelm the shores. It's as if ocean creatures decided to jointly fight humanity, to try to reclaim their degraded environment. Scientists say this scenario isn't made up out of whole cloth. Animals do move in groups governed by the collective. Think of a flock of birds, a parade of ants, a school of fish — all swarms like those envisioned by Schätzing, if not quite as murderous. "Animals regulate these vast collective structures without any leadership, without any individual animal knowing the whole state of the system," says Nicholas Ouellette, a civil engineer at Stanford University. "And yet it works fantastically well." Researchers are now learning about how these swarms operate. In the English countryside, birds have two distinct sets of rules for flocking, depending on the purpose of their flight. In Mexican forests, groups of ants have evolved computing-like search strategies to find their way around a disturbed environment. And in a lab in Germany, fish develop personalities that determine how they influence the rest of the school they are swimming with. These aren't just interesting observations about nature. Lessons from animal group behavior could help humans better engineer our own future, collectively. Such knowledge could help scientists build drones that coordinate their flight like flocking birds, for instance, or design packets of information to flow efficiently like foraging ants. Ouellette studies how birds and insects fly. A few years ago he began working with Alex Thornton, a biologist at the University of Exeter, England, who studies jackdaws (Corvus monedula). These highly social birds can travel in large flocks. Thornton and colleagues track thousands of jackdaws in Cornwall, using high-speed cameras to capture footage of the birds' flight paths. The scientists reported last year that jackdaws that pair with each other for life behave differently than unpaired birds when flying within a flock. Paired birds interact with fewer neighbors when looking for cues to which direction they should fly. Instead they rely more on their partner for information, which leads them to flap their wings more slowly and thus save energy. On winter evenings, the jackdaws commute from their foraging grounds back to their nests in what's known as a transiting flock. To disrupt that behavior, Thornton and colleagues placed a stuffed fox in the middle of a field and broadcast recordings of other jackdaws making sounds that might signal the presence of a predator. The jackdaws started flying around the fox in a completely different pattern than in the transiting flights. "The way the birds interacted with each other, and particularly the way they decided which birds to interact with, changed completely in the two kinds of flocks," says Ouellette. He and his colleagues reported the findings in November in Nature Communications. There are two ways birds within a flock can decide how many other birds to pay attention to for cues on where to move. If they pay attention just to the birds within a fixed distance of them, scientists call that a metric interaction. If a bird pays attention to a certain number of birds nearby, no matter how far away they are, it's a topological interaction. Flocks operating by metric rules behave differently than flocks operating by topological rules. Transiting flocks operate by topological rules. But the stuffed fox freaked the birds out, switching them to metric rules. Why? "We don't know," says Ouellette. Perhaps the birds may be trying to keep a certain distance from the fox. That would put them in metric mode, which they then use to govern their distances from other birds as well.

1-12-16 Starlings form spectacular 'dancing clouds' over Israel.
Starlings form spectacular 'dancing clouds' over Israel.
Starlings from Russia and eastern Europe have created a spectacular show in the Middle Eastern sunset. They group together to help find food and fend off foes. These murmurations, as they are known, make it difficult for a bird of prey to target a single bird.

The Gathering Swarms
Bats, Butterflies, and more

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse The Gathering Swarms for showing
us that the collective intelligence behavior of swarms gives
its members a distinct survival advantage.