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Anisotropic interaction rules in circular motions of pigeon flocks: An empirical study based on sparse Bayesian learning.

Phys Rev E. 2017 Aug;96(2-1):022411

Authors: Chen D, Xu B, Zhu T, Zhou T, Zhang HT

Coordination shall be deemed to the result of interindividual interaction among natural gregarious animal groups. However, revealing the underlying interaction rules and decision-making strategies governing highly coordinated motion in bird flocks is still a long-standing challenge. Based on analysis of high spatial-temporal resolution GPS data of three pigeon flocks, we extract the hidden interaction principle by using a newly emerging machine learning method, namely the sparse Bayesian learning. It is observed that the interaction probability has an inflection point at pairwise distance of 3-4 m closer than the average maximum interindividual distance, after which it decays strictly with rising pairwise metric distances. Significantly, the density of spatial neighbor distribution is strongly anisotropic, with an evident lack of interactions along individual velocity. Thus, it is found that in small-sized bird flocks, individuals reciprocally cooperate with a variational number of neighbors in metric space and tend to interact with closer time-varying neighbors, rather than interacting with a fixed number of topological ones. Finally, extensive numerical investigation is conducted to verify both the revealed interaction and decision-making principle during circular flights of pigeon flocks.

PMID: 28950513 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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