, Volume 143, Issue 2, pp 211-219

Assortative interactions and social networks in fish

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Abstract

The mechanisms underpinning the structure of social networks in multiple fish populations were investigated. To our knowledge this is the first study to provide replication of social networks and therefore probably the first that allows general conclusions to be drawn. The social networks were all found to have a non-random structure and exhibited ‘social cliquishness’. A number of factors were observed to contribute to this structuring. Firstly, social network structure was influenced by body length and shoaling tendency, with individuals interacting more frequently with conspecifics of similar body length and shoaling tendency. Secondly, individuals with many social contacts were found to interact with each other more often than with other conspecifics, a phenomenon known as a ‘positive degree correlation’. Finally, repeated interactions between pairs of individuals occurred within the networks more often than expected by random interactions. The observed network structures will have ecological and evolutionary implications. For example, the occurrence of positive degree correlations suggests the possibility that pathogens and information (that are socially transmitted) could spread very fast within the populations. Furthermore, the occurrence of repeated interactions between pairs of individuals fulfils an important pre-requisite for the evolution of reciprocal altruism.