Math describes sheep herd fluctuations | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Help us keep you informed.

Real Science. Real News.


News

Math describes sheep herd fluctuations

Equations quantify periodic spreading, clustering

By
3:00pm, September 28, 2015
Merino sheep

ALL TOGETHER NOW   In a herd, Merino sheep periodically spread apart and cluster back together. Scientists have developed equations that can describe this behavior. 

View the video

There’s something in the way sheep move.

In a herd, Merino sheep follow a predictable pattern of spreading out and clustering together. Now scientists have developed equations that can describe those movements. The sheep’s choreography may allow them to balance their needs for food and protection, researchers report September 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is the first quantitative study of this kind of behavior,”says study coauthor Francesco Ginelli, a collective animal behavior and active-matter researcher at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Ginelli and his colleagues developed equations that describe how the sheep move and respond to their neighbors. The results suggest that a herd of sheep may exist in a delicate balance, close to a “tipping point” between dispersing and

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content