Hydrodynamics of Sheep

Sheep. By Sam Carter.

As we’ve discussed previously, not all fluid-like behavior occurs within a literal fluid. Many groups of organisms — humans included — behave like a fluid en masse. Herds of sheep are a fantastic example of this, and now researchers have actually analyzed footage of sheep as a fluid!

The authors find strong evidence for emergent collective behavior among the sheep, as well as a tendency for the flock to minimize its perimeter. In other words, even though the sheep do not physically exert an attractive force on one another, they behave as though the flock has surface tension! For a herd animal, this behavior makes sense since it minimizes the exposure of individuals to predators. (Image credit: top image – S. Carter, drone footage – MuzMuzTV*; research credit: M. de Marcken and R. Sarfati; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

*As noted in my previous post, I do my best to credit the proper source of any video or image, but this is particularly difficult with viral videos. If you’re the original author of this video, let me know so I can update the reference!

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