14 June 2024
Swarming Cicadas Teach Traders Wisdom of Crowd

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Swarming cicadas, stock traders, and the wisdom of the crowd. The springtime emergence of vast swarms of cicadas can be explained by a mathematical model of collective decision-making that has similarities to models describing stock market crashes.

Swarming Cicadas Wisdom: A Tale of Collective Decision-Making



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In the eastern and southeastern United States, a remarkable natural phenomenon occurs every 13 or 17 years: the emergence of vast swarms of cicadas. These periodical cicadas spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on tree roots. When the soil temperature reaches a certain point, they emerge en masse, climb up trees, shed their exoskeletons, and take flight. The males then sing a deafening song to attract mates, and the females lay eggs in tree branches. The nymphs that hatch from these eggs will spend the next 13 or 17 years underground before emerging as adults.

Crowd Decision-Making Mystery of Synchronous Emergence

One of the most fascinating things about periodical cicadas is how they are able to emerge synchronously, even though they are spread out over a wide area and experience different local temperatures. Previous research has suggested that cicadas emerge once the soil temperature reaches 18°C, but this doesn’t explain how they are able to coordinate their emergence with other cicadas in the same area.

Crowd Decision-Making Mathematical Model of Collective Decision-Making

A new study published in the journal Physical Review E provides a possible explanation for this phenomenon. The researchers developed a mathematical model of collective decision-making that shows how cicadas can use communication to reach a consensus about the local average temperature, which then leads to large-scale swarms.

The model is based on the idea that each cicada nymph is like a tiny magnet. The nymph’s “spin” represents its decision to either remain underground or emerge. The local temperature is like a magnetic field that tends to align the spins of the nymphs. Communication between nearby nymphs is represented by an interaction between the spins that leads to local agreement of neighbors.

The researchers found that in the presence of such interactions, the swarms are large and space-filling, involving every member of the population in a range of local temperature environments. This is in contrast to the case without communication, in which every nymph is on its own, responding to every subtle variation in microclimate.

Swarming Cicadas Wisdom Role of Communication

The researchers believe that communication between cicada nymphs is essential for the emergence of large-scale swarms. They suggest that acoustical signaling is a likely candidate for this communication, given the ear-splitting sounds that the swarms make once they emerge from underground.

If this hypothesis is confirmed, it would provide a striking example of how Darwinian evolution can act for the benefit of the group, not just the individual. By communicating with each other, cicada nymphs are able to coordinate their emergence and increase their chances of finding mates and reproducing.

Wrapping Up

The study of periodical cicadas provides a fascinating glimpse into the power of collective decision-making. It also highlights the importance of communication in the natural world. By understanding how cicadas are able to coordinate their emergence, we may be able to learn more about how other animals make collective decisions..

FAQ’s

What is the most fascinating thing about periodical cicadas?

One of the most fascinating things about periodical cicadas is how they are able to emerge synchronously, even though they are spread out over a wide area and experience different local temperatures.

What was the research published in the journal Physical Review E about?

The research published in the journal Physical Review E was about a mathematical model of collective decision-making that shows how cicadas can use communication to reach a consensus about the local average temperature, which then leads to large-scale swarms.

What is the role of communication in the emergence of large-scale swarms?

The researchers believe that communication between cicada nymphs is essential for the emergence of large-scale swarms. They suggest that acoustical signaling is a likely candidate for this communication, given the ear-splitting sounds that the swarms make once they emerge from underground.

What does the study of periodical cicadas provide?

The study of periodical cicadas provides a fascinating glimpse into the power of collective decision-making. It also highlights the importance of communication in the natural world.

What can we learn from understanding how cicadas are able to coordinate their emergence?

By understanding how cicadas are able to coordinate their emergence, we may be able to learn more about how other animals make collective decisions.

Links to additional Resources:

https://www.nature.com https://www.science.org https://www.pnas.org

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Collective decision-making, Cicadas (insects), Mathematical models

Group decision-making
Group decision-making (also known as collaborative decision-making or collective decision-making) is a situation faced when individuals collectively make a choice from the alternatives before them. The decision is then no longer attributable to any single individual who is a member of the group. This is because all the individuals and...
Read more: Group decision-making

Cicada
The cicadas () are a superfamily, the Cicadoidea, of insects in the order Hemiptera (true bugs). They are in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, along with smaller jumping bugs such as leafhoppers and froghoppers. The superfamily is divided into two families, the Tettigarctidae, with two species in Australia, and the Cicadidae, with...
Read more: Cicada

Mathematical model
A mathematical model is an abstract description of a concrete system using mathematical concepts and language. The process of developing a mathematical model is termed mathematical modeling. Mathematical models are used in applied mathematics and in the natural sciences (such as physics, biology, earth science, chemistry) and engineering disciplines (such...
Read more: Mathematical model

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