Dr Andrew King interviewed on the Planet Earth Podcast
18 September 2012
A research fellow from The Royal Veterinary College's Structure and Motion Laboratory has been interviewed on the popular Planet Earth podcast to explain how studies of fish shoals can shed light on human behaviour. The podcast featuring Andrew King (who has now left the RVC to join Swansea University’s College of Science) and other scientists, entitled 'Forecasting solar storms, fish personalities', came out on 18 September 2012.
Planet Earth presenter Richard Hollingham visited the RVC's Hawkshead campus to meet Dr King and his tanks of sticklebacks. Explaining how the laboratory ranks fish based on their “boldness”, Dr King told the show: “The tank has a very scary shallow end and a very friendly deeper end. What the fish tend to do is stay in the safe end. The number of occasions and how long they spend at the scary end gives us an indication of how bold those fish are. We get an order of how bold fish are from 1 to 100.”
Fish of different boldness scores are then put into shoals to discover what combinations would make the most effective shoals.
Dr King explained: “We make these different shoals and give them tests like try and find food in this new novel environment or try and avoid this predator. Then we see which of these different shoals perform best.”
Indicating how the insights could be applied to different species, he added: “The aim is to understand exactly what rules shoals are using, how they follow fish – are they following all their neighbours. That relates to a lot of working flocking animals and shoaling fish and flocking birds. But the other thing that we want to try and work out is if animals have this personality why on earth is it adaptive, why should you vary.”
He added: “To try and work out what combination of personality types and characteristics make a winning team is of interest for economists and to anyone who is interested in information-sharing group societies. Maybe it's a little bit of a jump but it works surprisingly well across these species.”
Listen to the podcast at: Forecasting solar storms, fish personalities
The Royal Veterinary College
Established in 1791, the RVC is the UK’s longest-standing veterinary college—with a proud heritage of innovation in veterinary science, clinical practice and education.