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Predicting leadership using nutrient requirements and dominance rank of group members

Cédric Sueur, Andrew J. J. MacIntosh, Armand T. Jacobs, Kunio Watanabe, Odile Petit

Abstract

 Group members must decide collectively when and where to go despite their different nutrient requirements. One mechanism underlying consensus decisions is the proposition by one individual to move. The individual frequently initiating movements is often named a "leader", and this individual may be the most dominant, the oldest or may have the greatest physiological needs. However, high-ranking individuals are often those with the highest body mass, and thus the highest nutrient requirements. In this study, we use a state-dependent model to assess the importance of dominance and nutrient requirements to the initiation of group movements, testing different combinations of effects of these interacting factors. We first show using a theoretical approach that whatever the correlation between the dominance hierarchy and body mass, all decision-making systems are viable (or stable). However, in most cases, one individual does become the leader, and nutrient requirements appear to be more important for determining which individual will emerge as the leader than pre-existing individual characteristics such as their dominance rank. We obtained the same result when we compared the simulated distributions of initiations to the observed distributions in three macaque species. Results of our comparison of three macaque groups suggest that we can predict which group member will be the leader simply by knowing its body mass and its reproductive state. Understanding the link between dominance, needs and leadership may be a key to understanding consensus decisions and collective motion in animal groups, and might provide insight into the management of animal groups and their conservation.

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology DOI 10.1007/s00265-012-1466-5

DEC/14/2012

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