Current Zoology(formerly Acta Zoologica Sinica),   Apr. 2012, 58(2): 319 - 328
Title: Do networks of social interactions reflect patterns of kinship?
Authors: Joah R. MADDEN, Johanna F. NIELSEN, Tim H. CLUTTON-BROCK
 C e n t r e   f o r   R e s e a r c h   i n   A n i m a l   B e h a v i o u r ,   C o l l e g e   o f   L i f e   a n d   E n v i r o n m e n t a l   S c i e n c e s ,   U n i v e r s i t y   o f   E x e t e r , U K 
Abstract: The underlying kin structure of groups of animals may be glimpsed from patterns of spatial position or temporal association between individuals, and is presumed to facilitate inclusive fitness benefits. Such structure may be evident at a finer, behavioural, scale with individuals preferentially interacting with kin. We tested whether kin structure within groups of meerkats Suricata suricatta matched three forms of social interaction networks: grooming, dominance or foraging competitions. Networks of dominance interactions were positively related to networks of kinship, with close relatives engaging in dominance interactions with each other. This relationship persisted even after excluding the breeding dominant pair and when we restricted the kinship network to only include links between first order kin, which are most likely to be able to discern kin through simple rules of thumb. Conversely, we found no relationship between kinship networks and either grooming networks or networks of foraging competitions. This is surprising because a positive association between kin in a grooming network, or a negative association between kin in a network of foraging competitions offers opportunities for inclusive fitness benefits. Indeed, the positive association between kin in a network of dominance interactions that we did detect does not offer clear inclusive fitness benefits to group members. We conclude that kin structure in behavioural interactions in meerkats may be driven by factors other than indirect fitness benefits, and that networks of cooperative behaviours such as grooming may be driven by direct benefits accruing to individuals perhaps through mutualism or manipulation [Current Zoology 58 (2): 319-328, 2012].
Keywords: Social network, Kinship, Social structure, Grooming, Dominance, Meerkats

*Correspondence should be addressed to Joah R. MADDEN (

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