This fall, millions of Americans will cast their ballots for president. But experts say humans are not the only living creatures that vote. Recent studies have revealed that a wide variety of animal species routinely take action through group decisions—a form of voting.
Consider honeybees, for example. Experts have found that when a bee colony needs a new place to live, it first sends out a lot of scouts to look around. As each scout returns, she performs a dance to communicate the quality of the site she has discovered and where it is located. In time, one scout will convince the others that she has found the best place—and the other scouts will switch their dances to match hers. Once all the scouts agree, the entire colony flies off together.
Other studies have shown similar behavior in different animals. Take African wild dogs. They hunt in packs—but how do they decide where to hunt? Researchers in Botswana, a nation in Africa, have observed that one dog will rise to its feet, move in one direction, then sneeze. If a majority of dogs get up and sneeze in agreement, the entire pack goes.
“We discovered how amazingly complex this social behavior is,” says Reena Walker, who helped conduct the Botswana study. Indeed, it seems that the dogs’ decision about where to hunt is truly democratic.