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The macroscopic emergent behavior of social animal groups is a classic example of dynamical self-organization, and is thought to arise from the local interactions between individuals. Determining these interactions from empirical data sets of real animal groups, however, is challenging. Using multicamera imaging and tracking, we studied the motion of individual flying midges in laboratory mating swarms. By performing a time-frequency analysis of the midge trajectories, we show that the midge behavior can be segmented into two distinct modes: one that is independent and composed of low-frequency maneuvers, and one that consists of higher-frequency nearly harmonic oscillations conducted in synchrony with another midge. We characterize these pairwise interactions, and make a hypothesis as to their biological function.

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