Heterarchy reveals social organization of a smooth stingray (Bathytoshia brevicaudata) population in a provisioned food context

Joni Pini-Fitzsimmons*, Nathan A. Knott, Culum Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    5 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    The advent of new technologies and statistical analyses has provided valuable insights into chondrichthyan social behavior. It has become apparent that sharks and rays lead more complex social lives than previously believed. Heterarchy combines hierarchy and social network theory and although it is not a new concept, it is rarely applied to animal social interactions. Here, we applied heterarchy to a case study involving smooth stingrays foraging for fish scraps at boat ramp in Jervis Bay, NSW Australia. We took advantage of their attraction to this site to examine their social behavior during agonistic interactions over the provisioned resource. We observed a stable, relatively linear but shallow dominance hierarchy that was highly transitive dominated by a single individual. Social network analysis revealed a non-random social network centered on the dominant individual. Contrary to previous research, size did not predict dominance, but it was correlated with network centrality. The factors determining dominance of lower ranks were difficult to discern, which is characteristic of despotic societies. This study provides the first heterarchical assessment of stingray sociality, and suggests this species is capable of complex social behavior. Given higher dominance and centrality relate to greater access to the provisioned resource, the observed social structure likely has fitness implications.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number641761
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
    Volume8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

    Keywords

    • batoidea
    • dominance
    • heterarchy
    • social network analysis
    • social organization

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