Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Follow the Leader?

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Every animal that lives in groups has to make decisions as a group. Even a seemingly simple decision like “where should we go for dinner?” can be complicated to negotiate.
Is there a simple rule behind how humans and other animals make group decisions? Margaret Crofoot is a primatologist and Leakey Foundation grantee whose research on baboons suggests there is a rule, and it’s not what you might think.

Margaret Crofoot used GPS technology in an unprecedented way. She and her team fitted almost all of the adult members of a baboon troop with high-resolution GPS collars capable of recording movement at a scale of 1 GPS point every second. This fine-grained data gave Crofoot and her team a new way of tackling a question that has been vexing primatologists for decades. How do baboons make collective movement decisions?

This research was published as the cover story in the June 19, 2015, issue of the journal Science. Margaret Crofoot is now using funding from The Leakey Foundation’s Gordon P. Getty Grant to compare collective decision making in different species of monkeys.

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