News Round-Up

Spider monkey groups as collective computers


The wild spider monkeys living in a protected area near Punta Laguna, Mexico, collectively figure out good ways to divide up and conquer the forest. These monkeys live in a special type of society called a “fission-fusion” society. The group breaks up into little teams to find food — called, “foraging” in the world of ecology — but there is no “gym teacher” or “popular kid” picking teams. Rather, the monkeys each make decisions about how long to stay on foraging teams and when to switch to another. It turns out the collective effect of these individual decisions is to produce a range of foraging team sizes. And this range works well given how many trees in the forest have tasty fruit ready to eat. The monkeys are collectively computing good team sizes given the availability of food in the forest.

The findings are published this week in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI. The researchers — from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Santa Fe Institute — report that monkeys make use of the smarts of their group mates to inform their own decisions. MORE

Header image: Sandra E. Smith Aguilar.