Quorum Decision-Making in Foraging Fish Shoals

Quorum responses provide a means for group-living animals to integrate and filter disparate social information to produce accurate and coherent group decisions. A quorum response may be defined as a steep increase in the probability of group members performing a given behaviour once a threshold minimum number of their group mates already performing that behaviour is exceeded. In a previous study we reported the use of a quorum response in group decision-making of threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) under a simulated predation threat. Here we examine the use of quorum responses by shoals of sticklebacks in first locating and then leaving a foraging patch. We show that a quorum rule explains movement decisions by threespine sticklebacks toward and then away from a food patch. Following both to and from a food patch occurred when a threshold number of initiators was exceeded, with the threshold being determined by the group size.