Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 10, pp 1617–1629 | Cite as

Social networks in changing environments

  • A. D. M. WilsonEmail author
  • S. Krause
  • I. W. Ramnarine
  • K. K. Borner
  • R. J. G. Clément
  • R. H. J. M. Kurvers
  • J. Krause
Original Article


Social network analysis (SNA) has become a widespread tool for the study of animal social organisation. However despite this broad applicability, SNA is currently limited by both an overly strong focus on pattern analysis as well as a lack of dynamic interaction models. Here, we use a dynamic modelling approach that can capture the responses of social networks to changing environments. Using the guppy, Poecilia reticulata, we identified the general properties of the social dynamics underlying fish social networks and found that they are highly robust to differences in population density and habitat changes. Movement simulations showed that this robustness could buffer changes in transmission processes over a surprisingly large density range. These simulation results suggest that the ability of social systems to self-stabilise could have important implications for the spread of infectious diseases and information. In contrast to habitat manipulations, social manipulations (e.g. change of sex ratios) produced strong, but short-lived, changes in network dynamics. Lastly, we discuss how the evolution of the observed social dynamics might be linked to predator attack strategies. We argue that guppy social networks are an emergent property of social dynamics resulting from predator–prey co-evolution. Our study highlights the need to develop dynamic models of social networks in connection with an evolutionary framework.


Social dynamics Network analysis Population translocation Habitat manipulation Environmental change 



We thank Meint-Hilmar Broers and Jan Trebesch for help in the field. This study received funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (ADMW) and the BehaviourType project granted by the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz Association’s Pact for Innovation and Research (JK). We would also like to thank Associate Editor Jan Lindström and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable input.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

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_2015_1973_MOESM1_ESM.docx (81 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 80 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  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 Life SciencesUniversity of the West IndiesSt AugustineTrinidad and Tobago
  4. 4.Faculty of Life SciencesHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Centre for Integrative EcologyDeakin UniversityWaurn PondsAustralia

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