Date: January 31, 2017
When deciding what path to take during collective movement, individual baboons will likely follow the road most travelled by their group mates, according to new findings published in eLife.
The study also suggests that environmental factors, such as roads and the vegetation density of their habitat, play a key role in how baboons move together as a group.
To investigate this behaviour, researchers from the US and Germany tracked 25 wild olive baboons belonging to a single troop with second-by-second global positioning system (GPS) tracking at the Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, Kenya. They also used drone-based imaging technology to provide a high-resolution, three-dimensional reconstruction of the physical and vegetation structure of the baboons' environment. The data were then combined with a modelling system to help predict the animals' steps.
These methods reveal for the first time how the habitats of baboons and the animals' social interactions (in particular their tendency to follow each other closely) combine to influence the movements of individuals in a troop and ultimately determine the overall group structure.
They show that the most important predictor of baboons' decisions about where to move is where other troop members have gone in the recent past -- specifically, within the last five minutes. The more baboons have walked through a certain spot in this time, the more attractive it is to individuals.