While it has long been theorized that group-traveling animals such as sheep move to the center of their flock during a perceived threat, a recent study using GPS technology has put any doubts to rest.
The study, co-authored by Dr. Andrew King of the Royal Veterinary College in London (in conjunction with Cambridge University and University College of London), outfitted a flock of sheep with GPS backpacks (practical and adorable). Researchers then unleashed an Australian Kelpie herding dog. Results revealed that as the dog came within ~75 yards of the flock, the sheep would begin moving towards the center of the group, where they’re protected by a sheep shield.
These results were not entirely surprising, though the way GPS was used in the data collection, and the precise accuracy of said data, is an impressive feat in collective behavior research.
“We are getting better and better techniques for studying what is going on and understanding the mechanisms by which animals organise and accomplish collective feats, like sudden changes in direction,” said Professor Jens Krause of Humboldt University in Germany.
Now if only this technology could be used to predict US political leanings during times of electoral crisis, we might just be able to save ourselves months of arduous debates and just assume everyone’s going to move to the center.
(Story and image via BBC News)