Location = Providence, RI
ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2010) — Pigeon flocks are guided by a flexible system of leadership in which almost every member gets a 'vote' but the votes of high-ranking birds carry more weight, a new study has shown. 'We are all aware of the amazing aerobatics performed by flocks of birds but how such flocks decide where to go and whether decisions are made by a dominant leader or by the group as a whole has always been a mystery,' said Dr Dora Biro of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, an author of the paper. 'We found that, whilst most birds have a say in decision-making, a flexible system of 'rank' ensures that some birds are more likely to lead and others to follow.' The researchers believe their findings could help unravel the decision-making process in many other groups of animals. Further studies may reveal how such a sophisticated leadership strategy confers evolutionary advantage on individuals over a strategy based on a single leader or one in which all members contribute equally to decision-making.