Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Local interactions and global properties of wild, free-ranging stickleback shoals

Ward, Ashley J. W.; Schaerf, Timothy M.; Herbert-Read, James E.; Morrell, Lesley; Sumpter, David J. T.; Webster, Mike M.


Ashley J. W. Ward

Timothy M. Schaerf

James E. Herbert-Read

David J. T. Sumpter

Mike M. Webster


Collective motion describes the global properties of moving groups of animals and the self-organized, coordinated patterns of individual behaviour that produce them. We examined the group-level patterns and local interactions between individuals in wild, free-ranging shoals of three-spine sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus. Our data reveal that the highest frequencies of near-neighbour encounters occur at between one and two body lengths from a focal fish, with the peak frequency alongside a focal individual. Fish also show the highest alignment with these laterally placed individuals, and generally with animals in front of themselves. Furthermore, fish are more closely matched in size, speed and orientation to their near neighbours than to more distant neighbours, indicating local organization within groups. Among the group level properties reported here, we find that polarization is strongly influenced by group speed, but also the variation in speed among individuals and the nearest neighbour distances of group members. While we find no relationship between group order and group size, we do find that larger groups tend to have lower nearest neighbour distances, which in turn may be important in maintaining group order.


Ward, A. J. W., Schaerf, T. M., Herbert-Read, J. E., Morrell, L., Sumpter, D. J. T., & Webster, M. M. (2017). Local interactions and global properties of wild, free-ranging stickleback shoals. Royal Society Open Science, 4(7), 170043.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 7, 2017
Online Publication Date Jul 12, 2017
Publication Date Jul 12, 2017
Deposit Date Jul 13, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 13, 2017
Journal Royal Society open science
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 7
Article Number ARTN 170043
Pages 170043
Keywords Collective behaviour, Schooling, Grouping
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a copy of an open access article published in Royal Society open science, 2017, v.4.


Article.pdf (1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2017 The Authors.<br /> Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations