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Grazing Sheep Are Copy Cats, Study Learns

05 October 2015

FRANCE – Groups of sheep graze through dispersal and contraction phases, during which they mimic neighbouring animals, a French study of one hundred Merino sheep has found.

Imitation plays a central role in the “avalanche”-like cycles performed by sheep as they slowly disperse and rapidly regroup to maximise grazing area explored.

A mathematical model showed the intensity of mimicry was key to covering sufficient grazing area, while minimizing the time needed to regroup.

The observations, from the Domaine du Merle, Salon-de-Provence in southern France, offer new insights into collective behaviour seen in animals, said scientists at the CNRS, CEA and University of Aberdeen.

Such benefits could include sensing the presence of a predator. Sheep would then be allowed, according to the theory, to regroup to form “collective intelligence” by circulating information.

TheSheepSite News Desk

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