Knockouts of high-ranking males have limited impact on baboon social networks.
Social network structures can crucially impact complex social processes such as collective behaviour or the transmission of information and diseases. However, currently it is poorly understood how social networks change over time. Previous studies on primates suggest that `knockouts' (due to death or dispersal) of high-ranking individuals might be important drivers for structural changes in animal social networks. Here we test this hypothesis using long-term data on a natural population of baboons, examining the effects of 29 natural knockouts of alpha or beta males on adult female social networks. We investigated whether and how knockouts affected (1) changes in grooming and association rates among adult females, and (2) changes in mean degree and global clustering coefficient in these networks. The only significant effect that we found was a decrease in mean degree in grooming networks in the first month after knockouts, but this decrease was rather small, and grooming networks rebounded to baseline levels by the second month after knockouts. Taken together our results indicate that the removal of high-ranking males has only limited or no lasting effects on social networks of adult female baboons. This finding calls into question the hypothesis that the removal of high-ranking individuals has a destabilizing effect on social network structures in social animals.
Franz, M; Altmann, J; Alberts, SC
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