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A comparative social network analysis of wasp colonies and classrooms: Linking network structure to functioning

Elsevier Science
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  • Centre For Ecological Sciences


A major question in current network science is how to understand the relationship between structure and functioning of real networks. Here we present a comparative network analysis of 48 wasp and 36 human social networks. We have compared the centralisation and small world character of these interaction networks and have studied how these properties change over time. We compared the interaction networks of (1) two congeneric wasp species (Ropalidia marginata and Ropalidia cyathiformis), (2) the queen-right (with the queen) and queen-less (without the queen) networks of wasps, (3) the four network types obtained by combining (1) and (2) above, and (4) wasp networks with the social networks of children in 36 classrooms. We have found perfect (100%) centralisation in a queen-less wasp colony and nearly perfect centralisation in several other queen-less wasp colonies. Note that the perfectly centralised interaction network is quite unique in the literature of real-world networks. Differences between the interaction networks of the two wasp species are smaller than differences between the networks describing their different colony conditions. Also, the differences between different colony conditions are larger than the differences between wasp and children networks. For example, the structure of queen-right R. marginata colonies is more similar to children social networks than to that of their queen-less colonies. We conclude that network architecture depends more on the functioning of the particular community than on taxonomic differences (either between two wasp species or between wasps and humans).

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