45: Sneeze Voting
African Wild Dogs appear to vote on pack activities by sneezing.
Sneeze Voting Transcript:
Welcome to Brain Junk! I’m Amy Barton.
And I’m Trace Kerr and it’s time for a Brain Storm.
AB: I’m just going to tell you right now the whole big thing that’s most exciting about this. African wild dogs vote on important pack matters by sneezing.
TK: I love this! Tell me more! Tell me more!
AB: African wild dogs exhibit “dominant directed group living and take part in stereotyped social rallies.” They have a high energy ceremony, and rah-rah, they have a big collective movement, and studies show that the probability of a rally’s success is predicted by a minimum number of audible, rapid, nasal exhalations in the rally. So like charging the hill. They’re gonna go on the hunt! And if the sneezes are enough, like “YES We will do this!” The number of sneezes needed for the group to depart on their mission was reduced, so the total, like you needed to have a majority or something. BUT, if dominant pack members sneezed, like you know how the oldest sibling is like “my vote is worth three”…
AB: That is the effect of the dominant pack member. Their sneeze was more heavily weighted, and so they could kind of sway the group. However, the will of the group still could override that big pack member, so it feels more like politics to me. It was really interesting to read this whole effect.
TK: Who was the first person to figure that out? Can you imagine som grad student sitting in a Jeep somewhere and he’s like “I don’t know, I think when they’re all sneezing that’s something-that’s a yes.” And his professor’s going “No. No. I need more data.”
AB: And they’re sitting there drinking their coffee and the sneezing stops and they GO! The stupid grad student it right!
TK: I wonder, when my dog gets excited, she will often like…
AB: Oh yeah, they do some snorty stuff, don’t they?
TK: She knows we’re going to do something, so she gets up and kind of dances around a little bit, she shakes her head…
AB: She’s voting YES!
TK: And then she does this weird, ISSHHH. It’s not a sneeze, but it’s definitely a snort.
TK: Is that related?
AB: I feel like it is!
TK:Like she’s saying “I’m on board, let’s go to the car.”
AB: She’s the descendant of African Wild Dogs. I feel like that could be! It is interesting that this behavioral mechanism shows that the pack negotiates and they shape their decision making together as a group. They are a socially complex animal society.
TK: Like it!
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