Collective learning in route navigation.
Flack A., Biro D.
In a recent paper,(1) we examined how experience of repeatedly flying with a specific partner influences pigeons' subsequent navigational decision-making in larger flocks. We found that pairs develop into a "behavioral unit" through their shared experience of joint flights, acquiring a single idiosyncratic route during training, and then forming spatially distinct subgroups when flying with other pairs. Further, differences between the route preferences of different pairs appear to be reconciled through the same mechanisms as those that apply to individuals. Here we examine in more detail the development of route preferences in pairs, as an example of "collective learning." We find that pairs acquire routes more quickly, but with less precision, than individuals. We use these results to hypothesize on the advantages and limitations of solving problems collectively.