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Moving Calls: a Vocal Mechanism underlying Quorum Decisions in Cohesive Groups


Bousquet, C A H; Sumpter, D J T; Manser, M B (2011). Moving Calls: a Vocal Mechanism underlying Quorum Decisions in Cohesive Groups. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 278(1711):1482-1488.

Abstract

Members of social groups need to coordinate their behaviour when choosing between alternative activities. Consensus decisions enable group members to maintain group cohesion and one way to reach consensus is to rely on quorums. A quorum response is where the probability of an activity change sharply increases with the number of individuals supporting the new activity. Here, we investigated how meerkats (Suricata suricatta) use vocalizations in the context of movement decisions. Moving calls emitted by meerkats increased the speed of the group, with a sharp increase in the probability of changing foraging patch when the number of group members joining the chorus increased from two up to three. These calls had no apparent effect on the group’s movement direction. When dominant individuals were involved in the chorus, the group’s reaction was not stronger than when only subordinates called. Groups only increased speed in response to playbacks of moving calls from one individual when other group members emitted moving calls as well. The voting mechanism linked to a quorum probably allows meerkat groups to change foraging patches cohesively with increased speed. Such vocal coordination may reflect an aggregation rule linking individual assessment of foraging patch quality to group travel route.

Abstract

Members of social groups need to coordinate their behaviour when choosing between alternative activities. Consensus decisions enable group members to maintain group cohesion and one way to reach consensus is to rely on quorums. A quorum response is where the probability of an activity change sharply increases with the number of individuals supporting the new activity. Here, we investigated how meerkats (Suricata suricatta) use vocalizations in the context of movement decisions. Moving calls emitted by meerkats increased the speed of the group, with a sharp increase in the probability of changing foraging patch when the number of group members joining the chorus increased from two up to three. These calls had no apparent effect on the group’s movement direction. When dominant individuals were involved in the chorus, the group’s reaction was not stronger than when only subordinates called. Groups only increased speed in response to playbacks of moving calls from one individual when other group members emitted moving calls as well. The voting mechanism linked to a quorum probably allows meerkat groups to change foraging patches cohesively with increased speed. Such vocal coordination may reflect an aggregation rule linking individual assessment of foraging patch quality to group travel route.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:24 Jan 2011 13:38
Last Modified:26 Jan 2017 08:47
Publisher:Royal Society of London
ISSN:0962-8452
Funders:Swiss National Science Foundation, MNF University of Zurich
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.1739

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