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Am Nat. 2013 Nov;182(5):682-8. doi: 10.1086/673298. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

A novel mechanism for a survival advantage of vigilant individuals in groups.

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  • 1Institute of Artificial Intelligence, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 407, 9700 AK Groningen, The Netherlands.


In many animal species, vigilance is crucial for avoiding predation. In groups, however, nonvigilant individuals could benefit from the vigilance of others without any of the associated costs. In an evolutionary sense, such exploitation may be compensated if vigilant individuals have a survival advantage. The novelty in our model is that the probability to detect a predator is "distance dependent." We show that even if nonvigilant individuals benefit fully from information produced by vigilant individuals, vigilant individuals nevertheless enjoy a survival advantage. This happens because detection of predators is more likely when vigilant individuals happen to be targets of predation. We expect this distance-dependent mechanism to be compatible with previously reported mechanisms.

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