Department of Collective Behavior

Department of Collective Behavior

Our research focuses on revealing the principles that underlie collective animal behavior. Understanding how social influence shape biological processes is a central challenge, essential for achieving progress in a variety of fields ranging from the organization and evolution of coordinated collective action among cells, or animals, to the dynamics of information exchange in human societies. By developing an integrated experimental and theoretical research program we aim to explore functional properties of groups in a context that can reveal how, and why, social behavior has evolved.

A fundamental problem in a wide range of disciplines is understanding how functional complexity at a macroscopic scale results from the actions and interactions among the individual components. We use a wide range of animal systems to address this fundamental question.

Our research brings us to the interface of a variety of fields, from physics, to computer science, to politics, to psychology. Many of these interdisciplinary collaborations are fostered in the Center for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour at the University of Konstanz, a DFG cluster of excellence which Iain Couzin co-directs.

The Collective Behavior Labs


Fish are his passion. Alex Jordan wants to know why they do what they do. An interview with the behavioural biologist more

Army ants collectively form complex, adaptable structures, without a need for communication more

Developed by PhD student Tristan Walter and Iain Couzin, the easy to use tool automatically tracks hundreds of individual animals. more

Democratic decision-making allows subordinate vulturine guineafowl to regain control over collective group actions when dominants have a monopoly over resources more

In the Media

Devastating swarms of locusts are devouring everything in their path from Africa to India. Scientists and citizens are waging a massive war with cutting edge technology to stop the infestation from becoming a deadly plague.
Film by CuriosityStream. Picture copyright: FAO /Haji Dirir more
Iain Couzin has created a playground for biologists. Cameras follow groups of fish, grasshoppers balance on a ball in a virtual reality container and birds fly around with small backpacks, with which all their conversations are overheard. Film by tv NTR more
Scientists from the Univeristy of Konstanz and the co-located Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior turn to CT scanning and 3D printing technology to engineer a precise answer to the question: what are animals choosing when they choose a home? more
The cleaner wrasse responds to a mirror reflection as self—but does this mean that fish are self-aware? more

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