A social network analysis of primate groups
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- Kasper, C. & Voelkl, B. Primates (2009) 50: 343. doi:10.1007/s10329-009-0153-2
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Primate social systems are difficult to characterize, and existing classification schemes have been criticized for being overly simplifying, formulated only on a verbal level or partly inconsistent. Social network analysis comprises a collection of analytical tools rooted in the framework of graph theory that were developed to study human social interaction patterns. More recently these techniques have been successfully applied to examine animal societies. Primate social systems differ from those of humans in both size and density, requiring an approach that puts more emphasis on the quality of relationships. Here, we discuss a set of network measures that are useful to describe primate social organization and we present the results of a network analysis of 70 groups from 30 different species. For this purpose we concentrated on structural measures on the group level, describing the distribution of interaction patterns, centrality, and group structuring. We found considerable variability in those measures, reflecting the high degree of diversity of primate social organizations. By characterizing primate groups in terms of their network metrics we can draw a much finer picture of their internal structure that might be useful for species comparisons as well as the interpretation of social behavior.