Animals that herd together have a good reason to do so, it lowers every single individual’s chance of being attacked or in the worst case being eaten by a predator. Until recently this was just a theory, but now this hypothesis has been proven right. Researchers strapped GPS-enabled backpacks to flocking sheep and a herding dog, after which they tracked the movements of the sheep herding together while being pursued by the ever so fierce dog.
The data of the footage suggests, that is ‘science language’ for proves, that all individual sheep move towards the centre of the flock and away from the ferocious predator, the dog. As a result the whole flock moves away from the attacker. It turned out though, that some sheep are protected above average during the process. Whether or not this is mere luck or ability the researchers tried to sort out by testing the sheep individually on physical and mental fitness. Most probably it will show that all sheep are equal but some are more equal.
It is not fair to make fun of good research, but after seeing the picture I just couldn’t resist. But the researchers really deserve credit for the work done and this is interesting research, seriously.
More information here and in the July 24th, 2012, issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication where the findings appeared.