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Structural Balance in the Social Networks of Hyraxes.

Researchers studying animal behavior have noticed that structural balance properties appear in not just humans, but also animals like wild rock hyraxes (also known as rock rabbits). We tend to think that more cognitively developed animals like primates or dolphins would be socially complex enough to have structural balance behavior. However, even rodent-like mammals such as hyraxes can display socially complex behaviors. To prove this, researchers put trackers on some hyraxes and observed whether they were friendly or aggressive to each other. Friendly relationships would be labeled as positive and aggressive ones would be negative. Then, they constructed a graph and identified structurally balanced triads and unbalanced ones. From observing that balanced triads occurred much more often than unbalanced ones in these groups of hyraxes, the researchers were convinced that mammals other than humans can display structural balance property.

I was honestly shocked that even rodent-like animals such as hyraxes prefer to have socially balanced groups. It’s especially surprising that it’s not completely black and white when it comes to positive and negative relationships because this paper also mentioned variables such as gender rivalry and if males had to fight for females. Though, this is similar to examples in class when we had to determine if a triad could become stable. In our class examples, it turns out that many cases have outside factors that simply prevent a ++- triad from becoming a stable +++. Similarly with hyraxes, some males can’t be friendly with each other even if a female has positive relationships with both of them because of rivalry. Hyraxes aren’t that different from us after all.

You can find the paper here:


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October 2018