Torney, CJ; Lamont, M; Debell, L; Angohiatok, RJ; Leclerc, LM; Berdahl, AM
Social interactions are a significant factor that influence the decision-making of species ranging from humans to bacteria. In the context of animal migration, social interactions may lead to improved decision-making, greater ability to respond to environmental cues, and the cultural transmission of optimal routes. Despite their significance, the precise nature of social interactions in migrating species remains largely unknown. Here we deploy unmanned aerial systems to collect aerial footage of caribou as they undertake their migration from Victoria Island to mainland Canada. Through a Bayesian analysis of trajectories we reveal the fine-scale interaction rules of migrating caribou and show they are attracted to one another and copy directional choices of neighbours, but do not interact through clearly defined metric or topological interaction ranges. By explicitly considering the role of social information on movement decisions we construct a map of near neighbour influence that quantifies the nature of information flow in these herds. These results will inform more realistic, mechanism-based models of migration in caribou and other social ungulates, leading to better predictions of spatial use patterns and responses to changing environmental conditions. Moreover, we anticipate that the protocol we developed here will be broadly applicable to study social behaviour in a wide range of migratory and non-migratory taxa.