Statistical analysis reveals the onset of synchrony in sparse swarms of Photinus knulli fireflies release_2d43fqaohfejhnpofzimsd3upe

by Raphael Sarfati, Laura Gaudette, Joseph Cicero, Orit Peleg

Released as a post by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.



Flash synchrony within firefly swarms is an elegant but elusive manifestation of collective animal behaviour. It has been observed, and sometimes demonstrated, in a few populations across the world, but exactly which species are capable of large-scale synchronization remains unclear, especially in low-density swarms. The underlying question which we address here is: how does one qualify a collective flashing display as synchronous, given that the only information available is the time and location of flashes? We propose different statistical approaches and apply them to high-resolution stereoscopic video recordings of the collective flashing of Photinus knulli fireflies, hence establishing the occurrence of synchrony in this species. These results substantiate detailed visual observations published in the early 1980s and made at the same experimental site: Peña Blanca Canyon, Coronado National Forest, Arizona, USA. We also remark that P. knulli's collective flashing patterns mirror that observed in Photinus carolinus fireflies in the Eastern United States, consisting of synchronous flashes in periodic bursts with rapid accretion and quick decay.
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