Jo Westwood

Social Media Manager

Highly evolved species…

Forget the Winklevoss twins. The next suit accusing Mark Zuckerberg of stealing the Facebook idea might just come from Flipper.

A study by scientists in the United Kingdom says that human use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter mimics the ways animals including dolphins and monkeys have long shared information about their own lives and worlds.

“Social networks are the same across all species and, whilst details of their structure may differ, some properties remain the same whether we are looking at killer whales, spider monkeys or, indeed, humans,” University of Aberdeen biological sciences lecturer David Lusseau tells The Press Association.

Lusseau, who led the 10-year study on animal behavior, will present his findings next Wednesday in Aberdeen in a talk called, “Did Animals Invent Twitter?”

Lusseau’s project found that dolphins, whales, primates and hoofed animals all form groups to help make decisions efficiently and effectively to benefit the individual animals involved. Researchers liken this to the ways in which humans interact socially on Facebook and Twitter to exchange information and tailor group discussions to individual needs. And, just like when humans plan a party or outing via Facebook, certain animals tend to guide the conversations about where to locate food or avoid predators.

“Schools of dolphins provide an example of this,” Lusseau says. “As individuals, dolphins have their own daily needs to fulfill, such as resting and eating, but they are also concerned with what they should do next as a group. We find that group leaders can emerge simply in particular cases because they might know the current context better than the other members of the group.”

Lusseau’s research also found that all animals are linked to one another by shared sets of connections — much like humans are in the real world or on Facebook — and that the same six-degrees-of-separation concept even applies in the animal kingdom.

But, while human behavior on social networks may reflect that of mammals in the wild, as Lusseau says, there is still no evidence of a parallel Internet where animals giggle at photos of cuddly humans.

What do you think? Do Lusseau’s theories hold water? Or are they much ado about very little? Let me know your thoughts!


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  1. Pingback: Do You Facebook? « Happily Ever After 7.10.11

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