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Call for review of how behaviours spread in animals
Fish appear to make fine-scale judgements about when to copy their shoal-mates’ behaviour.


New research suggests understanding could be enhanced by drawing on human research

Scientists at Oxford University are calling for a review of how behaviours spread through wild animal populations and how this could aid in the understanding of human social connections.


Their study, published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, suggests that understanding of animal behaviours could be improved by drawing on the latest discoveries in human social systems. 


The human studies found that the most influential people are not necessarily the most social. Instead, the most influential people are often those found in close-knit social circles.

The human studies revealed that while people in close-knit groups had fewer social connections, they were very influential and promoted the spread of new behaviour.

In the new study, researchers show how these recent insights can be used to enrich our understanding of animal social networks.

Examples presented in the paper reveal how, even in the most basic social systems, small changes can have a major influence on which animals might adopt a behaviour and which might be key to its spread.

“Just like in humans, various animal species are known to be capable of social considerations, such as when to adopt a behaviour, or who to learn from,” explained lead author Dr Josh Firth. “These choices mean that behaviours don’t spread like diseases.”


The researchers also draw on recent studies of animals' social connections and how this could inform understanding of human social lives. For example, birds may ‘follow the majority’ when learning to find food and fish appear to make fine-scale judgements about when to copy their shoal-mates’ behaviour.


Scientists suggest that by considering how these choices affect the spread of behaviour, animal systems could reveal new insights into the spread of different behaviours (such as mating or foraging), and which factors govern which individuals have the most influence on their peers.

"Studying wild animal populations holds exceptional advantages, such as the ability to experimentally manipulate natural social networks, and to track individuals over long time periods and many generations,” Dr Firth added.

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Celebrity chefs urge public to get baking to support Cats Protection fundraiser

News Story 1
 In support of Cats Protection's Pawsome Afternoon Tea fundraiser, Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and Great British Bake Off star Kim-Joy have shared biscuit recipes to help keen bakers raise money for needy cats across April.

The celebrity chefs are both cat owners and have said that they hope this fundraiser will help to raise awareness of cats in need and the importance of adopting a cat, rather than buying one.

This is the fourth year Cats Protection has run its Pawsome Afternoon Tea campaign, which encourages people to hold tea parties, bake sales and fundraising events to help raise money for the charity.

To view the recipes and other fundraising resources please visit the Cats Protection website. 

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BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.