Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Biosciences Seminar Speaker - 03 October 2013

Biosciences Seminar Series - Michaelmas 2013
03 October 2013 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

The Collective Behaviour of Fish Shoals

Dr. James Herbert Read (aka Teddy) 

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OK, I know, these aren't fish shoals in this picture. However, have you ever experienced being in a human crowd, being pushed and carried away by the motion of the group? Maybe you have even experienced being in a mosh pit at rock concerts? The interesting thing is that these kinds of so-called collective behaviours share many characteristics with movements of large herds of animals, flocks of birds, or fish shoals.

Understanding how these collective behaviours emerge from individual interactions and movement rules has become a very active area of research in biology. Interestingly, many principles and methods from physics, e.g. used to study the behaviour of particles in gases, can be applied in this context (e.g. see here or here) and it is often surprising how apparently complex swarm behaviours can be produced by very simple basic principles. Even amazing anti-predator behaviours such as torus formation produced by mackerel and other fish:

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Photo: Christopher Swann/Science Photo Library

Which brings us straight to our seminar speaker of this week - Teddy -- sometimes known also as Dr. Herbert Read from the University of Upsala in Sweden. Teddy's research focuses on animal interactions and how these drive group level behaviours. To do so he uses fish shoals as model system to test specific predictions and obtain a mechanistic understanding. For example like this one:

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Well, maybe not exactly like this one. Best thing to do - come this Thursday over lunch and find out yourself! It promises to be a very intersting talk, as you can deduce from the abstract:

My research investigates how animal groups can display complex and coordinated behaviours, despite each individual in the group having limited information about its neighbours and surroundings.  In particular, I focus on determining how simple, individual level rules give rise to the collective dynamics we often observe in animal groups.  

In this talk, I will show you how using highly quantitative methods to analyse the behaviour of individual fish in shoals, we can gain insights into how groups achieve coordinated movement, accurate decision making, and transfer information about threats. I will also demonstrate how individuals express their personality in groups, and show you how this research could inform and improve safety measures in human crowds. 

I will finally discuss how seemingly cooperative behaviours are in fact driven by selfish individual level rules, explaining how these behaviours evolved in groups of unrelated individuals. 

Everyone is welcome and I hope to see many of you. James will also be around in the Department on Thusrday and Friday - if you would like to have a chat with him just let me know (l.borger (at) 

There will be also an opportunity to meet up with our speaker over a beer - JCs at 5pm! And if you would like to join us also for a dinner in hte Mumbles area, get directly in contact with Andy King ( a.j.king (at)

1 comment:

  1. Great job Luca!!! Looking forward to Teddy's talk. Thanks for organising.