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Fish decide quicker, better when in groups: Study


January 25, 2011 - Melbourne

Here's evidence that two heads are better than one in making big decisions.

This may not always work for humans, but a new research has shown for the first time that fish act quicker and make more accurate decisions when they are part of a group.

The findings also throw new light on the benefits of social networking, reports ABC Science.

Ashley Ward and James Herbert-Read from the University of Sydney presented mosquito fish with a choice to swim down one of two arms in a Y-shaped channel. One arm contained a replica predator while the other was empty.

They found that the larger groups of mosquito fish made the correct decision to swim down the predator-free arm more rapidly than smaller groups or individuals.

"All the things we understood had suggested that as group size increased, the time taken to make a decision should also increase. You see that in human committees - the larger the committee, the longer it takes to make a decision," said Ward.

"We expected that fish in groups would make more accurate decisions, but not necessarily at any greater speed. So we were really surprised when the larger groups not only made better, more accurate decisions, but they also made them much, much faster," he added

Fish in groups of eight and more showed almost 90 percent accuracy, whereas single fish only managed 56 percent accuracy.

Ward said the actual time fish spent in the decision making zone (at the start of the channel) was between 1.5 and 2 seconds.

"The incredible thing is, these animals can make decisions without talking to each other," said Herbert-Read.

The study is published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

ANI

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