Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 6, pp 915–925 | Cite as

Dynamic social networks in guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

  • Alexander D. M. WilsonEmail author
  • Stefan Krause
  • Richard James
  • Darren P. Croft
  • Indar W. Ramnarine
  • Karoline K. Borner
  • Romain J. G. Clement
  • Jens Krause
Original Paper


One of the main challenges in the study of social networks in vertebrates is to close the gap between group patterns and dynamics. Usually scan samples or transect data are recorded to provide information about social patterns of animals, but these techniques themselves do not shed much light on the underlying dynamics of such groups. Here we show an approach which captures the fission-fusion dynamics of a fish population in the wild and demonstrates how the gap between pattern and dynamics may be closed. Our analysis revealed that guppies have complex association patterns that are characterised by close strong connections between individuals of similar behavioural type. Intriguingly, the preference for particular social partners is not expressed in the length of associations but in their frequency. Finally, we show that the observed association preferences could have important consequences for transmission processes in animal social networks, thus moving the emphasis of network research from descriptive mechanistic studies to functional and predictive ones.


Social network analysis Behaviour type Fission-fusion dynamics 



ADM Wilson acknowledges financial support from research fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt foundation and IGB. RC was supported by an IGB studentship, KB by a Nafög studentship and DPC by funding from the Leverhulme Trust. We would like to thank Kharan Deonarinesingh for assistance in the field.

Ethical standards

This research was performed in accordance with the laws, guidelines and ethical standards of the country in which they were performed (Trinidad).

Supplementary material

265_2014_1704_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
265_2014_1704_MOESM2_ESM.doc (68 kb)
Fig. S1 Frequency distributions of (a) the lengths of contact with a particular nearest neighbour, (b) the lengths of social contact, and (c) the lengths of being alone in the observed data (grey diamonds) and in a simulation of the very simple model that uses unconditional probabilities p(i) and p(x) of being social and of being alone, respectively (black circles) (DOC 68 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander D. M. Wilson
    • 1
    • 7
    Email author
  • Stefan Krause
    • 2
  • Richard James
    • 3
  • Darren P. Croft
    • 4
  • Indar W. Ramnarine
    • 5
  • Karoline K. Borner
    • 1
  • Romain J. G. Clement
    • 1
  • Jens Krause
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of the Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceLübeck University of Applied SciencesLübeckGermany
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsUniversity of BathBathUK
  4. 4.Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Washington Singer LabsUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  5. 5.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of the West IndiesSt AugustineTrinidad and Tobago
  6. 6.Humboldt University, Faculty of Life SciencesBerlinGermany
  7. 7.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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