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Key players and hierarchical organization of prairie dog social networks

Authors
Journal
Ecological Complexity
1476-945X
Publisher
Elsevier
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecocom.2014.06.003
Keywords
  • Social Networks
  • Community Detection
  • Sociality
  • Cynomys
  • Social Substructure
Disciplines
  • Medicine

Abstract

Abstract The use of social network theory in evaluating animal social groups has gained traction in recent years. Despite the utility of social network analysis in describing attributes of social groups, it remains unclear how comparable this approach is to traditional behavioral observational studies. Using data on Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) social interactions we describe social networks from three populations. We then compare those social networks to groups identified by traditional behavioral approaches and explore whether individuals group together based on similarities. The social network social groups identified by social network analysis were consistent with those identified by more traditional behavioral approaches. However, fine-grained social sub-structuring was revealed only with social network analysis. We found variation in the patterns of interactions among prairie dog social groups that was largely independent of the behavioral attributes or genetics of the individuals within those groups. We detected that some social groups include disproportionately well-connected individuals acting as hubs or bridges. This study contributes to a growing body of evidence that social networks analysis is a robust and efficient tool for examining social dynamics.

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