BUSINESS and bio-inspired robotics could benefit from new research which shows that fish pool their experience to solve problems collectively.

In a set of experiments, scientists at St Andrews University School of Biology set out to determine whether leadership – the pulling of the group by informed members – could allow groups of animals to pool their experience in order to solve problems collectively.

Their findings, which could have implications for businesses and even bio-inspired swarm robotics, are published on the Nature Ecology & Evolution website.

Dr Mike Webster said: “To tackle this question we presented shoals of stickleback fish with a two-part problem, in which they had to first find and then access some hidden food. Individual fish were either inexperienced or had experience of just one of the stages.

“We found that in shoals that comprised individuals trained in each of the stages more fish did indeed access the food, and did so more rapidly, compared with other shoal composition which only contained fish trained to one or to neither of two parts of the problem.

“Supporting our idea that leadership played a role in this, we found strong effects of having experienced members in the group, with the presence of these greatly increasing the likelihood of untrained fish completing each part of the problem.”

Researchers have long noted that larger groups tend to outperform smaller groups and lone individuals when completing certain tasks.