free and open to public
Through their presence and behaviors, organisms produce information that is publicly available to influence the decisions of surrounding individuals, even those from different species. While there is a wealth of evidence that social information can strongly affect the behavior, fitness, and interactions of organisms, ranging from birds and mammals communicating with alarm calls to plants communicating with chemical cues, it remains largely unknown how this ubiquitous phenomenon may affect the ecology of the greater system. In this talk, centered on the behavior of mixed-species groups of fish in a tropical coral reef, I present work that integrates novel empirical and quantitative approaches to investigate the role that social information plays in ecology. I show that simple individual decision rules by animals in the wild hinge on social information and drive collective behavior that can affect the functioning, dynamics, and resilience of coral reef ecosystems. This work highlights that, despite its general absence from ecological models, information may serve as a fundamental component to ecological dynamics across system.