The collective behavior of animals is fundamentally different from the behavior of individual individuals. A flock or population is inherent in a property that is still incomprehensible to us, which is usually called "a single will", or an "imperative impulse" to which individual individuals obey. Observing flocks of migratory birds or clouds of locusts, in a single impulse following a strictly defined route, scientists still cannot answer the question - what drives them?
The myth of the wise leader
Locust swarms unmistakably find their way through sands and deserts to green valleys where food is available. This can be explained by genetic memory or instinct, but a strange thing: if a separate individual is removed from the flock, it immediately loses direction and begins to randomly rush in one direction or the other. An individual does not know either the direction of movement or its purpose. But how, then, does the pack know this?
Studying the annual flights of birds, scientists have put forward a hypothesis that their movement is guided by old and experienced individuals. Let us recall the wise goose Akku Kiebekaise from Niels's Travels with Wild Geese. " This hypothesis was not in doubt until the Japanese ornithologist Professor Yamamoto Huroke established that migratory flocks did not have a leader. It happens that during the flight, almost a chick is at the head of the flock. Of ten cases, in six young birds fly at the head of the flock, emerging from an egg in the summer and having no experience of flying. But having fought off the flock, the bird usually cannot find the right direction.
Termite mounds - the creation of a collective mind?
Some scientists believe that fish, too, "grow smarter", being in a flock. This is confirmed by experiments in which the fish, in search of a way out, had to swim through the labyrinth. It turned out that groups of fish choose the right direction faster than those swimming alone.
French researcher Louis Thoma, who has been studying termites for many years, writes: “Take two or three - nothing will change, but if you increase their number to a certain 'critical mass', a miracle will happen. As if having received an important order, the termites will begin to create work teams. They will begin to stack one on top of one another small pieces of whatever they come across, and erect columns, which will then be connected by vaults. Until you get a room that looks like a cathedral. " Thus, knowledge about the structure as a whole arises only when there is a certain number of individuals.
The following experiment was made with termites: partitions were installed in the termitary under construction, dividing its builders into isolated "brigades". Despite this, the work continued, and each move, ventilation duct or room, which turned out to be divided by a partition, fell exactly at the junction of one with the other.
Instincts - sideways
"Swarms of locusts," wrote the famous French explorer Rémy Chauvin, "are huge reddish clouds that descend and take off as if on command." What is this irresistible impulse that drives all this dense, multi-ton mass that cannot be stopped? She flows around obstacles, crawls over walls, throws herself into the water and continues to move uncontrollably in the chosen direction.
Vole mice and lemmings are equally unstoppable during their sudden migrations. Having met a moat on the way, they do not go around it, do not look for another way, but overwhelm with a living wave, filling to the brim with swarming bodies, along which hundreds of thousands of others continue to move non-stop. Trampled, crushed, suffocated in a deep ditch, before dying, they do not make the slightest attempt to escape, forming a bridge for those who follow. The strongest survival instinct is suppressed and completely drowned out.
Researchers have repeatedly noted that during the migration of South African gazelles, the lion, overwhelmed by their stream, was powerless to get out of it. Not experiencing the slightest fear, the gazelles moved directly to the lion, flowing around it like an inanimate object.
Nothing too much
The "will of the population", which puzzles scientists, is manifested in something else. Usually, as soon as the number of individuals begins to exceed a certain critical number, animals, as if obeying an unknown order, cease to reproduce offspring. For example, Dr. R. Laws of Cambridge University wrote about this, having studied the life of elephants for many years. When their population grows too much, then either females lose the ability to reproduce, or the period of maturity in males begins much later.
Corresponding experiments were performed with rabbits and rats. As soon as there were too many of them, in spite of the abundance of feed and other favorable conditions, an inexplicable phase of increased mortality began. For no reason, there was a weakening of the body, a decrease in resistance, illness. And this continued until the population was reduced to optimal size.
In addition to academic interest, the question of where the signal that influences the behavior of the flock and the size of the population comes from is of great practical importance. If it was possible to unravel its code, it would be possible to successfully deal with pests that destroy crops: the Colorado potato beetle, grape snails, rats, etc.
The phenomenon of the war years
The law of self-regulation mysteriously maintains a balance in the population of females and males, although the biological origin of a male and a female is equally probable. However, if there are few females in the population, females predominate among newborns, if there are few males, then they begin to be born. This phenomenon is well known in the human community, demographers call it "the phenomenon of the war years." During and after wars, there has been a sudden increase in male births in countries that have suffered male casualties.
An example of the transition from quantity to quality?
IN AND. Vernadsky introduced the concept of "biosphere" - the totality of the entire mass of living beings inhabiting the Earth. This totality should be considered "as a single integral planetary organism." The famous French paleontologist and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin also saw the biosphere. This, according to him, "a living creature that has spread over the Earth, from the very first stages of its evolution, outlines the contours of a single gigantic organism."
Many scientists agree with this, for example, the famous German physicist G.T. Fechner believed that the Earth should have some kind of unified collective consciousness. Just as the human brain consists of many separate cells, the consciousness of the planet, he believed, is composed of the consciousness of individual living beings that live on it. And this consciousness should be as different from the consciousness of individual individuals as the brain as a whole is qualitatively different from the individual cells that make up it.
So far, it has not been possible to prove that the "superorganisms" inhabiting the Earth form a kind of aggregate of the next, higher order, as well as to refute this hypothesis. Its indisputable advantage, however, is that it not only explains to a certain extent the “will” of a particular population, but also offers a model for such a perception of the world in which there are no friends and foes, where all living things are interconnected, interdependent and harmoniously complement each other. friend.