Models of collective animal behaviour frequently make assumptions about the effects of neighbours on the behaviour of focal individuals, but these assumptions are rarely tested. One such set of assumptions is that the switch between active and inactive behaviour seen in herding animals is influenced by the activity of close neighbours, where neighbouring animals show a higher degree of behavioural synchrony than would be expected by chance. We tested this assumption by observing the simultaneous behaviour of paired individuals within a herd of red deer Cervus elaphus. Focal individuals were more synchronised with their two closest neighbours than with the third closest or randomly selected individuals from the herd. Our results suggest that the behaviour of individual deer is influenced by immediate neighbours. Even if we assume that there are no social relationships between individuals, this suggests that the assumptions made in models about the influence of neighbours may be appropriate. © 2014 Rands et al.
Rands, S. A., Muir, H., & Terry, N. L. (2014). Red deer synchronise their activity with close neighbours. PeerJ, 2014(1). https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.344