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Social Structure of Hyenas

The rise in variations of social media lately has diversified how human beings interact with each other. Although the communication methods and network shapes take on various forms, the triadic closure principle always seems to hold. People are more likely to form bonds with friends of friends. Recent studies show that human beings are not the only species with an inclination to follow triadic closure in their social networks.

Over the span of 20 years, researchers collected over 55,000 observations of spotted hyenas’ social interactions. They discovered that while factors like sex, social rank, and environmental conditions were nontrivial; the key ingredient to sustaining hyenas’ society was the formation and maintenance of bonds in triads. Most hyenas typically belong in a clan that contains more than 100 other hyenas. They can distinguish their relatives from strangers and are selective about forming bonds. Just like humans, they have a preference for befriending friends of friends rather than strangers. Researchers have also shown that hyenas follow different rules, when it comes to forming relationships, based on their sex. The spotted hyenas are a female-dominant society, so the females in the clan can be more flexible with their preferences than the males. The males follow much stricter rules since they start out in the lowest social rank.

By studying the social networks formed by these animals, people can construct a more comprehensive understanding of their own social networks. They can analyze the patterns and the results of sociality to see if any of them carry over to more intelligent species. The scientists claimed that they would continue their research with more advanced methods to further their understandings of the hyenas’ social structures. Just like how the triadic disclosure principle carried over, it would be interesting to see which other theories are also shared between humans and animals.


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