Special Viewpoint

Complexity, Pattern, and Evolutionary Trade-Offs in Animal Aggregation

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Science  02 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5411, pp. 99-101
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5411.99

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Abstract

One of the most striking patterns in biology is the formation of animal aggregations. Classically, aggregation has been viewed as an evolutionarily advantageous state, in which members derive the benefits of protection, mate choice, and centralized information, balanced by the costs of limiting resources. Consisting of individual members, aggregations nevertheless function as an integrated whole, displaying a complex set of behaviors not possible at the level of the individual organism. Complexity theory indicates that large populations of units can self-organize into aggregations that generate pattern, store information, and engage in collective decision-making. This begs the question, are all emergent properties of animal aggregations functional or are some simply pattern? Solutions to this dilemma will necessitate a closer marriage of theoretical and modeling studies linked to empirical work addressing the choices, and trajectories, of individuals constrained by membership in the group.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jparrish{at}u.washington.edu

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