Social network for birds full of great tits -

Scientists have taken a ‘big data’ approach to analysing social networks that involve more than their fair share of tweeting.

Researchers at Oxford University say they have been observing the social networks of birds, and have been using big data analysis to create a “big picture” of how individuals are connected.

In order to reveal how groups of birds interact in groups, which has strong implications for health and indeed the survival of populations, the team attempted to record interactions in a manner similar to the Facebook or Twitter of their human counterparts.

Just like in Facebook, the researchers were able to record “who you are friends with, where you’ve been, and what you share with others”.

Making use of the masses of data collected is tricky but with the advent of big data analytics scientists are using the same techniques offered by big tech firms - to find out more about animal social behaviour.

According to Ioannis Psorakis this is “just the first example of how zoologists are beginning to use our method to explore social networks of animals in a "big data" context’”.

So far the team has been looking at the way wild great tits interact socially creating, building profiles of individuals and even creating ‘events’ like on Facebook.

Wild great tits are particularly interesting from a social learning perspective as the avarian genuises managed to share knowledge during the mid part of the last century about how to break through milk bottle tops to reach the cream inside.

In the future, the team plans to look at how a greater number of species interact, and using big data number-crunching would like to combine genetic information to find out if animals are more likely to hang out with those that are more genetically similar.