Social networking of animals is fascinating. I would love to have more time to play with social networks of animals.
Today, thanks to an anonymous edit in the open wiki I created for collecting information about research on trust metrics, Trustlet.org, I re-found a paper I once added in the list of trust network datasets (subcategory “animals”): Matriarchs As Repositories of Social Knowledge in African Elephants.
I just re-skimmed through the abstract to re-find out that: despite widespread interest in the evolution of social intelligence, little is known about how wild animals acquire and store information about social companions or whether individuals possessing enhanced social knowledge derive biological fitness benefits. Using playback experiments on African elephants (Loxodonta africana), authors demonstrate that oldest elephants possess enhanced discriminatory abilities and this influences the social knowledge of the group as a whole. These superior abilities for social discrimination may result in higher per capita reproductive success for female groups led by older individuals. Our findings imply that the removal of older, more experienced individuals, which are often targets for hunters because of their large size, could have serious consequences for endangered populations of advanced social mammals such as elephants and whales.
The paper is cited by 166 other papers according to Google Scholar, by papers whose titles promise nothing but interesting readings: “Sperm whales: social evolution in the ocean” (cited by 128; according to Wikipedia, the name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal’s head, due to its resemblance to semen, so nothing related to sex, I’m sorry), “Identifying the role that animals play in their social networks” (cited by 144), “The socioecology of elephants: analysis of the processes creating multitiered social structures”, “Quantifying the influence of sociality on population structure in bottlenose dolphins”, “Social relationships among adult female baboons (Papio cynocephalus) I. Variation in the strength of social bonds”, “Cognitive adaptations of social bonding in birds”, “Relatedness structure and kin-biased foraging in the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)”.
In Trustlet, I noted down time ago these other papers: Relations, Species, and Network Structure (with 80 small networks of animals(size from 4 colobus monkeys to 73 high school boys), Social Networking for Zebras , Mapping pigeons navigations.
Understanding social networks in Facebook or Wikipedia is so old school … I think I need to find funds for going to study social networks of animals, with a field study in Lesotho maybe! That would be extremely interesting! ;)