Group navigation and the "many-wrongs principle" in models of animal movement

Ecology. 2007 Jul;88(7):1864-70. doi: 10.1890/06-0854.1.


Traditional studies of animal navigation over both long and short distances have usually considered the orientation ability of the individual only, without reference to the implications of group membership. However, recent work has suggested that being in a group can significantly improve the ability of an individual to align toward and reach a target direction or point, even when all group members have limited navigational ability and there are no leaders. This effect is known as the "many-wrongs principle" since the large number of individual navigational errors across the group are suppressed by interactions and group cohesion. In this paper, we simulate the many-wrongs principle using a simple individual-based model of movement based on a biased random walk that includes group interactions. We study the ability of the group as a whole to reach a target given different levels of individual navigation error, group size, interaction radius, and environmental turbulence. In scenarios with low levels of environmental turbulence, simulation results demonstrate a navigational benefit from group membership, particularly for small group sizes. In contrast, when movement takes place in a highly turbulent environment, simulation results suggest that the best strategy is to navigate as individuals rather than as a group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Environment*
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Density
  • Spatial Behavior