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7 examples of animal democracy

By: Russell McLendon on Nov. 4, 2012, 5:28 p.m.
Red deer

Photo: Mehmet Karatay/Wikimedia Commons

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Red deer

The red deer of Eurasia live in large herds, spending lots of time either grazing or lying down to ruminate. Some deer are ready to move on before others are, and scientists have noticed that herds only move when 60 percent of the adults stand up — essentially voting with their feet. Even if a dominant individual is more experienced and makes fewer mistakes than its underlings, herds typically favor democratic decisions over autocratic ones.

A major reason for this, according to research by biologists Larissa Conradt and Timothy Roper, is that groups are less impulsive: "Democratic decisions are more beneficial primarily because they tend to produce less extreme decisions, rather than because each individual has an influence on the decision per se."