How the Spatial Position of Individuals Affects Their Influence on Swarms: A Numerical Comparison of Two Popular Swarm Dynamics Models

Schools of fish and flocks of birds are examples of self-organized animal groups that arise through social interactions among individuals. We numerically study two individual-based models, which recent empirical studies have suggested to explain self-organized group animal behavior: (i) a zone-based model where the group communication topology is determined by finite interacting zones of repulsion, attraction, and orientation among individuals; and (ii) a model where the communication topology is described by Delaunay triangulation, which is defined by each individual's Voronoi neighbors. The models include a tunable parameter that controls an individual's relative weighting of attraction and alignment. We perform computational experiments to investigate how effectively simulated groups transfer information in the form of velocity when an individual is perturbed. A cross-correlation function is used to measure the sensitivity of groups to sudden perturbations in the heading of individual members. The results show how relative weighting of attraction and alignment, location of the perturbed individual, population size, and the communication topology affect group structure and response to perturbation. We find that in the Delaunay-based model an individual who is perturbed is capable of triggering a cascade of responses, ultimately leading to the group changing direction. This phenomenon has been seen in self-organized animal groups in both experiments and nature.

A. Kolpas, M. Busch, H. Li, I. D. Couzin, L. Petzold, and J. Moehlis
PLoS ONE
Volume: 8
Number: 3
Pages: p.e58525
Date: March, 2013
ICB Affiliated Authors: Linda R Petzold, Jeff Moehlis