Modelling collective navigation via non-local communication

A recent paper called “Modelling collective navigation via non-local communication”
has been published by S. T. Johnston(1) and K. J. Painter(2).

They tell us that a group of individuals produce better navigational results than
individuals which is why flocks of birds are more efficient than a solo migrant. The
RAF confirms this where they have found that a more than one navigator does
a better job.

Collective migration occurs throughout the animal kingdom, and demands both the
interpretation of navigational cues and the perception of other individuals within the
group. Navigational cues orient individuals towards a destination, while it has been
demonstrated that communication between individuals enhances navigation through
a reduction in orientation error.

We develop a mathematical model of collective navigation that synthesises navigational cues and perception of other individuals. Crucially, this approach incorporates uncertainty inherent to cue interpretation and perception in the decision making process, which can arise due to noisy environments.

We demonstrate that collective navigation is more efficient than individual navigation, provided a threshold number of other individuals are perceptible. This benefit is even more pronounced in low navigation information environments. In navigation ‘blindspots’, where no information is available, navigation is enhanced through a relay that connects individuals in information- poor regions to individuals in information-rich regions. As an expository case study, we apply our framework to minke whale migration in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, and quantify the decrease in navigation ability due to anthropogenic noise pollution.

1 Systems Biology Laboratory, School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
2 Dipartimento Interateneo di Scienze, Progetto e Politiche del Territorio (DIST) Politecnico di Torino, Viale Pier Andrea Mattioli, Torino 39 10125, Italy

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