Stickleback fish bust myth of born leaders

January 30th, 2009 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 30 (IANS) Followers are just as important as leaders themselves in any undertaking, said a new study on stickleback fish, busting the myth of born leaders. Random pairing of fishes has shown how each member adopts the role of leader or follower. More importantly, researchers found, the behaviour of each member of the pair is strongly influenced by its partner.

“Our study shows that the process by which leaders and followers emerge is a dynamic one,” said Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge, who conducted the study.

“Individuals aren’t simply born leaders or followers, but their role in a pair - and, we could speculate, in a larger group - is the result of social feedback where everyone plays a role,” Manica said.

When paired, both the bolder and the shyer of the two fish made more food-gathering trips together and stayed out for longer periods of time. Most of the time, those forays were initiated by whichever of the two fish had independently been shown to behave more boldly.

“If a shy individual is paired with a very bold individual, the latter ‘inspires’ the former into becoming a very faithful follower,” Manica said, according to a Cambridge release.

“Conversely, a very shy individual seems to bring out the leadership of the bolder companion, which becomes a much stronger leader than if it was paired with a less shy companion.”

These results were published in Thursday’s edition of Current Biology.

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