How Behaviour and the Environment Influence Transmission in Mobile Groups

  • Thomas E. GorochowskiEmail author
  • Thomas O. RichardsonEmail author
Part of the Theoretical Biology book series (THBIO)


The movement of individuals living in groups leads to the formation of physical interaction networks over which signals such as information or disease can be transmitted. Direct contacts represent the most obvious opportunities for a signal to be transmitted. However, because signals that persist after being deposited into the environment may later be acquired by other group members, indirect environmentally-mediated transmission is also possible. To date, studies of signal transmission within groups have focused on direct physical interactions and ignored the role of indirect pathways. Here, we use an agent-based model to study how the movement of individuals and characteristics of the signal being transmitted modulate transmission. By analysing the dynamic interaction networks generated from these simulations, we show that the addition of indirect pathways speeds up signal transmission, while the addition of physically-realistic collisions between individuals in densely packed environments hampers it. Furthermore, the inclusion of spatial biases that induce the formation of individual territories, reveals the existence of a trade-off such that optimal signal transmission at the group level is only achieved when territories are of intermediate sizes. Our findings provide insight into the selective pressures guiding the evolution of behavioural traits in natural groups, and offer a means by which multi-agent systems can be engineered to achieve desired transmission capabilities.



T.E.G. was supported by an EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship award from the University of Bristol (EP/P511298/1), and BrisSynBio, a BBSRC/EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre (BB/L01386X/1). T.O.R is supported by an EU Marie Curie Actions Intra-European Fellowship, ‘Mapping spatial interaction networks in honeybee colonies’ (project number 30114). Simulations and analyses were carried out using the computational facilities of the Advanced Computing Research Centre, University of Bristol, UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BrisSynBioUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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