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Researchers at the University of St Andrews have found that fish can work together to tackle complex problems. After studying the behaviour of sticklebacks, scientists have concluded that more experienced fish can pass knowledge on to less experienced fish and that, when information is shared, the whole shoal is benefited.

To test their theory, the study’s authors presented the sticklebacks with a two-part problem – the fish first had to first locate and then access a food source. The sticklebacks were shown either one of the two stages in the process or were not taught anything.

Fish in groups that contained members educated in both elements of the problem obtained food faster than groups that only had knowledge of one area. Shoals with fish that made good leaders/educators saw more fish that had begun the task uneducated attempting to work on both sides of the task. The researchers also discovered that larger groups of fish were also more likely outperform smaller groups and lone individuals when completing certain tasks.

Future Psychology students should study the team building behaviours of animals and how this can be applied to humans. Those hoping to study Computer Science should investigate how this swarm theory can be used in AI software and bio-inspired robotics.

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