Long term analysis of social structure: evidence of age-based consistent associations in Alpine ibex [article]

Alice Brambilla, Achaz von Hardenberg, Cedric Sueur, Claudia Canedoli, Christina Stanely
2021 bioRxiv   pre-print
Despite its recognized importance for understanding the evolution of animal sociality as well as for conservation, long term analysis of social networks of animal populations is still relatively uncommon. We investigated social network dynamics in males of a gregarious mountain ungulate (Alpine ibex, Capra ibex) over ten years focusing on groups, sub-groups and individuals, exploring the dynamics of sociality over different scales. Despite the social structure changing between seasons, the
more » ... e ibex population was highly cohesive: fission-fusion dynamics lead almost every male in the population to associate with each other male at least once. Nevertheless, we found that male Alpine ibex showed preferential associations that were maintained across seasons and years. Age seemed to be the most important factor driving preferential associations while other characteristics, such as social status, appeared less crucial. We also found that centrality measures were influenced by age and were also related to individual physical condition. The multi-scale and long-term frame of our study helped us show that ecological constrains, such as resource availability, may play a role in shaping associations in a gregarious species, but they cannot solely explain sociality and preferential association that are likely also to be driven by life-history linked physiological and social needs. Our results highlight the importance of long-term studies based on individually recognizable subjects to help us build on our understanding of the evolution of animal sociality.
doi:10.1101/2021.12.02.470954 fatcat:awvd2imlpfbxhlgra3r6thdeem