Researchers examine the social networks of wild giraffes

Sep 24, 2013

(Phys.org) —New research from The University of Queensland reinforces the value of network analysis and long-term studies for examining the social systems of wild animals.

Lead researcher, Dr Kerryn Carter, from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, analysed the of 625 individually identified wild giraffes in Etosha National Park, Namibia from studies spanning six years.

"Long-term studies of sociality in are quite rare, despite being critical for determining the benefits of social relationships and testing how long such relationships last and whether they change as individual's age," said Dr Carter.

Knowledge about in animal species that exhibit fission-fusion dynamics can enhance our understanding of the evolution of close in humans, who also have a fission-fusion social system.

"We found that giraffes, which exhibit fission-fusion , formed a cohesive society in which on average any two giraffes could be connected in the population's social network via 1 to 3 other giraffes.

This reflects the '' described for people in U.S.A. in which there were on average only five acquaintances in the shortest path between any two Americans.

"Such cohesive giraffe societies may facilitate passive information sharing about that have recently started to flower or bear fruit, or other relevant ecological information. Such information sharing is more likely to benefit the most well connected individuals in the network," she said.

The results of the study have been published in the scientific journal Animal Behaviour.

Despite the daily changes in giraffes' group compositions that are typical of fission-fusion taxa, the study also found that long-term relationships spanning six years were evident among female giraffes, but not males.

This may be explained by in ranging patterns and reproductive priorities.
Long-term friendships among females may help individuals to find food and detect predators by learning from others, which may enhance their own survival and that of their offspring.

In contrast, long-term relationships among males who may be direct reproductive competitors would not bring reproductive benefits and injuries from fighting could reduce, rather than enhance, survival.

The study also discovered that as immature female giraffes matured to young adults they appeared to increase their gregariousness by forming weaker relationships with a greater number of females, perhaps as they moved around to different groups prior to settling into a home range.

In contrast, older females showed greater stability over time in the strengths of their friendships and the numbers of females they associated with, probably because they had settled into stable home ranges and frequently encountered known females at food patches and waterholes.

Explore further: Deep sea fish eyesight similar to human vision

Related Stories

Giraffes are ‘choosy' when hanging out with friends

Jan 23, 2013

(Phys.org)—Studying social relationships among female giraffes may provide essential information for the management and conservation of the species, a study by The University of Queensland (UQ) has found.

'Shy' male birds flock together—and have fewer friends

Sep 17, 2013

Male birds that exhibit 'shy' social behaviour are much more likely to join flocks of birds with a similar personality than their 'bold' male counterparts, a new study has found. But shy birds also have fewer ...

Niger rare giraffe population makes a comeback

Mar 07, 2012

The last West African giraffes, now living in the wild only in southwestern Niger, are making a comeback with numbers standing at 310 last year, the environment ministry said here Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Male sex organ distinguishes 30 millipede species

7 hours ago

The unique shapes of male sex organs have helped describe thirty new millipede species from the Great Western Woodlands in the Goldfields, the largest area of relatively undisturbed Mediterranean climate ...

Dogs hear our words and how we say them

Nov 26, 2014

When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said—those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences—but also to other features of that speech—the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.