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Hyena Social Networks

Hyenas are African predators that live in large stable groups called clans, which can have more than 100 members. They are known for their ability to cluster and take advantage of it, meaning that as a result, can promote cooperation and fitness. One reason behind this phenomenon is because they are selective in their social choices and befriend the friends of their friends rather than every hyena in the clan.  Postdoctorate Researcher Amiyaal Ilany and his colleagues collected around 55,000 observations of hyenas’ social interactions over a period of 20 years. Ilany noticed that there are individual factors like gender and environmental factors like amount of prey that can also influence social behavior. However, Ilany notes that the ability for individuals to form and maintain social bonds in triads was significant.


The article continues by connecting the hyenas’ ability to cluster to gender dynamic and behavior. Females are usually the dominant sex and can be flexible in social settings since they know their social situation better than males. Males, on the other hand, move to new clans after they mature and have no social order because they are at the bottom of the social hierarchy.  As a result of this, males were revealed to have rigid rules in forming bonds, while females can change friends whenever they want.


This article refers to principles of graph theory, specifically the triadic closure property to explain to the reader about the social networks that can be formed and seen within nature. Triadic closure means that if a person has strong ties to two friends, then those friends are more likely to meet and connect. It is very interesting that we can see this kind of behavior in animals that are usually known to live and hunt in large groups, like hyenas. This article further justifies that principles of networks have existed for a very long time, possibly since prehistoric times.


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October 2018