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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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Cats Protection launches Christmas animation

News Story 1
 Leading feline charity Cats Protection has launched a heartwarming Christmas animation to raise awareness of the important work it does. The animation is based on a true story of a kitten that went missing earlier this year. Freezing cold and hungry, the kitten was dumped in a box on a roadside and somehow became separated from her brother and sisters.


Thankfully there is a happy end to this tail, and Libby - now named Misty - was eventually reunited with her littermates. Misty’s owner, Amy Smith, said: “Misty has settled amazingly well into our home, she has found a best friend in my daughter Lily and likes to follow her around the house. She also loves to chase bugs in the garden. We feel very lucky to have her.” 

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WSAVA launches certificate programme focusing on companion animals in One Health

The first certificate programme focusing specifically on the role of companion animals in One Health has been launched by the One Health Committee (OHC) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

The online programme, which is free of charge for WSAVA members, has been developed in recognition of the growing impact of companion animals in human society. Pet ownership is becoming more popular globally, and this has increased the implications for One Health, regarding the human-companion animal bond. The WSAVA OHC hopes that this course will bridge the knowledge gap between veterinary surgeons and human physicians. New modules are being added weekly, with a total of 20 modules expected to be available by early 2020.