Journal of Ethology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 421-428

First online:

Spatial properties of a forest buffalo herd and individual positioning as a response to environmental cues and social behaviour

  • Mario MellettiAffiliated withDepartment of Animal and Human Biology, University of Rome “La Sapienza” Email author 
  • , M. M. DelgadoAffiliated withDepartment of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC
  • , Vincenzo PenterianiAffiliated withDepartment of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSICFinnish Museum of Natural History, Zoological Museum, University of Helsinki
  • , Marzia MirabileAffiliated withHigh Institute for Environmental Protection and Research
  • , Luigi BoitaniAffiliated withDepartment of Animal and Human Biology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”

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Many animals aggregate into organized temporary or stable groups under the influence of biotic and abiotic factors, and some studies have shown the influence of habitat features on animal aggregation. This study, conducted from 2002 to 2004 in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic, studied a herd of forest buffaloes (Syncerus caffer nanus) to determine whether spatial aggregation patterns varied by season and habitat. Our results show that both habitat structure and season influenced spatial aggregation patterns. In particular, in open habitats such as clearings, the group covered a larger area when resting and was more rounded in shape compared to group properties noted in forest during the wet season. Moreover, forest buffaloes had a more aggregated spatial distribution when resting in clearings than when in the forest, and individual positions within the herd in the clearing habitat varied with age and sex. In the clearings, the adult male (n = 24) was generally, on most occasions, located in the centre of the herd (n = 20), and he was observed at the border only four times. In contrast, females (n = 80) occupied intermediate (n = 57), peripheral (n = 14) and central positions (n = 9) within the group. Juveniles (n = 77) also occurred in intermediate (n = 64) and peripheral positions (n = 13). Based on these results, we concluded that habitat characteristics and social behaviour can have relevant effects on the spatial distribution of animals within a group.


Animal aggregation Forest buffalo Group structure SADIE Spatial pattern Syncerus