Modelling changes in migration pattern of herring: collective behaviour and numerical domination


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According to the adopted-migrant hypothesis, first time spawning herring Clupea harengus learn their migration pattern from schooling with older individuals. Changes in migration pattern of Norwegian spring-spawning herring co-occur with the recruitment of abundant year classes to the spawning stock. It is argued that this is due to the abundant year classes being unable to learn from the older ones since most of the recruiting year class only experience their own naïve class-mates. An individual-based school simulation study is presented to explore the hypothesis. Behaviour is simulated using individual rules that take into account the movements of nearby individuals. After establishing a schooling pattern, a small proportion of the individuals is directed to move towards a given position while the remaining individuals keep using their behaviour rules. When <4% of the individuals are so directed there is no response seen in the remaining school. But when ≥7% of the total school is directed to a specific location, the remaining individuals always respond and follow the directed individuals. The simulations thus show that determined individuals can have a substantial influence on the collective behaviour of schools. Furthermore, the knife-edge response in school behaviour suggests that the relative abundance of determined individuals in a school plays an important part in the collective behaviour. This mechanism can explain the observed changes in migration pattern of Norwegian spring-spawning herring associated with the recruitment of abundant year classes to the adult Stock.