Variance in centrality within rock hyrax social networks predicts adult longevity

Adi Barocas, Amiyaal Ilany, Lee Koren, Michael Kam, Eli Geffen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In communal mammals the levels of social interaction among group members vary considerably. In recent years, biologists have realized that within-group interactions may affect survival of the group members. Several recent studies have demonstrated that the social integration of adult females is positively associated with infant survival, and female longevity is affected by the strength and stability of the individual social bonds. Our aim was to determine the social factors that influence adult longevity in social mammals. Methodology/Principal Findings: As a model system, we studied the social rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), a plural breeder with low reproductive skew, whose groups are mainly composed of females. We applied network theory using 11 years of behavioral data to quantify the centrality of individuals within groups, and found adult longevity to be inversely correlated to the variance in centrality. In other words, animals in groups with more equal associations lived longer. Individual centrality was not correlated with longevity, implying that social tension may affect all group members and not only the weakest or less connected ones. Conclusions/Significance: Our novel findings support previous studies emphasizing the adaptive value of social associations and the consequences of inequality among adults within social groups. However, contrary to previous studies, we suggest that it is not the number or strength of associations that an adult individual has (i.e. centrality) that is important, but the overall configuration of social relationships within the group (i.e. centrality SD) that is a key factor in influencing longevity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22375
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011


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