CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Wildlife Research   
Wildlife Research
Journal Banner
  Ecology, Management and Conservation in Natural and Modified Habitats
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn


Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 38(1)

Use of proximity loggers and network analysis to quantify social interactions in free-ranging wild rabbit populations

Maija K. Marsh A, Steven R. McLeod B, Michael R. Hutchings C and Piran C. L. White A D

A Environment Department, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK.
B Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.
C Disease Systems, SAC, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK.
D Corresponding author. Email: piran.white@york.ac.uk

Wildlife Research 38(1) 1-12 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10150
Submitted: 27 August 2010  Accepted: 5 November 2010   Published: 15 March 2011

PDF (523 KB) $25
 Export Citation

Context: Social structure of group-living animals has important implications for processes such as gene flow, information transfer, resource utilisation, and disease spread. However, due to the difficulties associated with measuring relationships among wild animals and deriving meaningful estimates of social structure from these interactions, quantifying sociality of evasive species can be challenging.

Aims: Our aim was to quantify the pattern of social interactions among free-ranging European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in a temperate region of Australia.

Methods: We used proximity logging devices to collect data on the dyadic interactions among two populations of rabbits. We then applied recently developed social structure and network analytical techniques to infer estimates of sociality and contact networks from recorded interactions.

Key results: We found large heterogeneities in the strength of association indices and network centrality measures within but not between populations. Network analytical techniques revealed clustering of rabbits into distinct social groups.

Conclusions: Most associations within social groups were strong and highly stable over time whereas interactions between groups were rare and transient, indicating low levels of inter-group mixing. Despite the apparent differences in habitat quality between sites, the network characteristics were extremely similar between the two populations.

Implications: Our results highlight the importance of heterogeneities in individual behaviour in determining the dynamics of directly transmitted diseases at the population level.

Additional keywords:contact network, European wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, RHDV, social network, social structure.


Böhm, M., Palphramand, K. L., Newton-Cross, G., Hutchings, M. R., and White, P. C. L. (2008). Dynamic interactions among badgers: implications for sociality and disease transmission. Journal of Animal Ecology 77, 735–745.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Böhm, M., Hutchings, M. R., and White, P. C. L. (2009). Contact networks in a wildlife-livestock host community: identifying high-risk individuals in the transmission of bovine TB among badgers and cattle. PLoS One 4, e5016.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Borgatti, S. P. (2002) ‘Netdraw: Graph Visualization Software.’ (Analytic Technologies: Lexington, KY.)

Cairns, S. J., and Schwager, S. J. (1987). A comparison of association indices. Animal Behaviour 35, 1454–1469.
CrossRef |

Carter, S. P., Delahay, R. J., Smith, G. C., Macdonald, D. W., Riordan, P., Etherington, T. R., Pimley, E. R., Walker, N. J., and Cheeseman, C. L. (2007). Culling-induced social perturbation in Eurasian badgers Meles meles and the management of TB in cattle: an analysis of a critical problem in applied ecology. Proceedings. Biological Sciences 274, 2769–2777.
CrossRef |

Christley, R. M., Pinchbeck, G. L., Bowers, R. G., Clancy, D., French, N. P., Bennett, R., and Turner, J. (2005). Infection in social networks: using network analysis to identify high-risk individuals. American Journal of Epidemiology 162, 1024–1031.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Connor, R. C., Mann, J., Tyack, P. L., and Whitehead, H. (1998). Social evolution in toothed whales. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 13, 228–232.
CrossRef | CAS |

Cooke, B. D., and Fenner, F. (2002). Rabbit haemorrhagic disease and the biological control of wild rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, in Australia and New Zealand. Wildlife Research 29, 689–706.
CrossRef |

Cowan, D. P. (1987a). Aspects of the social organisation of the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Ethology 75, 197–210.
CrossRef |

Cowan, D. P. (1987b). Group living in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus): mutual benefit or resource localization? Journal of Animal Ecology 56, 779–795.
CrossRef |

Cowan, D. P., and Garson, P. J. (1985). Variations in the social structure of rabbit populations: causes and demographic consequences. In ‘Behavioural Ecology: Ecological Consequences of Adaptive Behaviours’. (Eds R. M. Sibly and R. H. Smith.) pp. 537–554. (Blackwell Scientific Publications: Oxford.)

Daniels, M. J., Lees, J. D., Hutchings, M. R., and Greig, A. (2003). The ranging behaviour and habitat use of rabbits on farmland and their potential role in the epidemiology of paratuberculosis. Veterinary Journal (London, England) 165, 248–257.
CrossRef |

Edwards, G. P., Pople, A. R., Saalfeld, K., and Caley, P. (2004). Introduced mammals in Australian rangelands: future threats and the role of monitoring programmes in management strategies. Austral Ecology 29, 40–50.
CrossRef |

Godfrey, S. S., Bull, C. M., James, R., and Murray, K. (2009). Network structure and parasite transmission in a group living lizard, the gidgee skink, Egernia stokesii. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63, 1045–1056.
CrossRef |

James, R., Croft, D. P., and Krause, J. (2009). Potential banana skins in animal network social analysis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63, 989–997.
CrossRef |

Ji, W., White, P. C. L., and Clout, M. N. (2005). Contact rates between possums revealed by proximity data loggers. Journal of Applied Ecology 42, 595–604.
CrossRef |

Krause, J., Lusseau, D., and James, R. (2009). Animal social networks: an introduction. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63, 967–973.
CrossRef |

Lehman, M. (1991). Social behaviour in young domestic rabbits under semi-natural conditions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 32, 269–292.
CrossRef |

Lusseau, D. (2007). Evidence for social role in a dolphin social network. Evolutionary Ecology 21, 357–366.
CrossRef |

Lusseau, D., Wilson, B., Hammond, P. S., Grellier, K., Durban, J. W., Parsons, K. M., Barton, T. R., and Thompson, P. M. (2006). Quantifying the influence of sociality on population structure in bottlenose dolphins. Journal of Animal Ecology 75, 14–24.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Lusseau, D., Whitehead, H., and Gero, S. (2008). Incorporating uncertainty into the study of animal social networks. Animal Behaviour 75, 1809–1815.
CrossRef |

McLeod, R. (2004). ‘Counting the Cost: Impact of Invasive Animals in Australia 2004.’ (Cooperative Research Centre for Pest Animal Control: Canberra.)

Meyers, L. A., Newman, M. E. J., Martin, M., and Schrag, S. (2003). Applying network theory to epidemics: control measures for Mycoplasma pneumoniae outbreaks. Emerging Infectious Diseases 9, 204–210.
| PubMed |

Mitani, J. C. (2009). Male chimpanzees form enduring and equitable social bonds. Animal Behaviour 77, 633–640.
CrossRef |

Myers, K., and Poole, W. E. (1959). A study of the biology of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in confined populations. I. The effects of density on home range and the formation of breeding grounds. CSIRO Wildlife Research 4, 14–26.

Myers, K., and Poole, W. E. (1961). A study of the biology of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in confined populations. II. The effects of season and population increase on behaviour. CSIRO Wildlife Research 6, 1–41.

Mykytowycz, R. (1958). Social behaviour of an experimental colony of wild rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.) I. Establishment of the colony. CSIRO Wildlife Research 3, 7–25.

Newman, M. E. J. (2001). Scientific collaboration networks. II. Shortest paths, weighted networks, and centrality. Physical Review E: Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics 64, 016132.
CrossRef | CAS |

Newman, M. E. J. (2004). Analysis of weighted networks. Physical Review E: Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics 70, 056131.
CrossRef | CAS |

Newman, M. E. J. (2006). Modularity and community structure in networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103, 8577–8582.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Perkins, S. E., Cagnacci, F., Stradiotto, A., Arnoldi, D., and Hudson, P. J. (2009). Comparison of social networks derived from ecological data: implications for inferring infectious disease dynamics. Journal of Animal Ecology 78, 1015–1022.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Porphyre, T., Stevenson, M., Jackson, R., and McKenzie, J. (2008). Influence of contact heterogeneity on TB reproduction ratio R-0 in a free-living brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula population. Veterinary Research 39, 31.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Prange, S., Jordan, T., Hunter, C., and Gehrt, S. D. (2006). New radiocollars for the detection of proximity among individuals. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34, 1333–1344.
CrossRef |

Sih, A., Hanser, S. F., and McHugh, K. A. (2009). Social network theory: new insights and issues for behavioural ecologists. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63, 975–988.
CrossRef |

Surridge, A. K., Bell, D. J., and Hewitt, G. M. (1999a). From population structure to individual behaviour: genetic analysis of social structure in the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Linnean Society of London 68, 57–71.
CrossRef |

Surridge, A. K., Ibrahim, K. M., Bell, D. J., Webb, N. J., Rico, C., and Hewitt, G. M. (1999b). Fine-scale genetic structuring in a natural population of European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Molecular Ecology 8, 299–307.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Swain, D. L., and Bishop-Hurley, G. J. (2007). Using contact logging devices to explore animal affiliations: quantifying cow-calf interactions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 102, 1–11.
CrossRef |

Volz, E., and Meyers, L. A. (2007). Susceptible-infected-recovered epidemics in dynamic contact networks. Proceedings. Biological Sciences 274, 2925–2934.
CrossRef |

von Holst, D., Hutzelmeyer, H., Kaetzke, P., Khaschei, M., Rödel, H. G., and Schrutka, H. (2002). Social rank, fecundity and lifetime reproductive success in wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 51, 245–254.
CrossRef |

Vonhof, M. J., Whitehead, H., and Fenton, M. B. (2004). Analysis of Spix’s disc-winged bat association patterns and roosting home ranges reveal a novel social structure among bats. Animal Behaviour 68, 507–521.
CrossRef |

Wey, T., Blumstein, D. T., Shen, W., and Jordan, F. (2008). Social network analysis of animal behaviour: a promising tool for the study of sociality. Animal Behaviour 75, 333–344.
CrossRef |

White, P. C. L., and Harris, S. (1994). Encounters between red foxes (Vulpes vulpes): implications for territory maintenance, social cohesion and dispersal. Journal of Animal Ecology 63, 315–327.
CrossRef |

White, P. C. L., Newton-Cross, G. A., Gray, M., Ashford, R., White, C., and Saunders, G. (2003). Spatial interactions and habitat use of rabbits on pasture and implications for the spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in New South Wales. Wildlife Research 30, 49–58.
CrossRef |

White, P. C. L., Böhm, M., Marion, G., and Hutchings, M. R. (2008). Control of bovine tuberculosis in British livestock: there is no ‘silver bullet’. Trends in Microbiology 16, 420–427.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Whitehead, H. (1995). Investigating structure and temporal scale in social organizations using identified individuals. Behavioral Ecology 6, 199–208.
CrossRef |

Whitehead, H. (2006). ‘Socprog: Programs for the Analysis of Animal Social Structure.’ Halifax: Hal Whitehead. Available at http://myweb.dal.ca/hwhitehe/social.htm [accessed 1 September 2009].

Whitehead, H. (2007). Selection of models of lagged identification rates and lagged association rates using AIC and QAIC. Communications in Statistics Simulation and Computation 36, 1233–1246.
CrossRef |

Whitehead, H. (2008a). ‘Analyzing Animal Societies: Quantitative Methods for Vertebrate Social Analysis.’ (University Chicago Press: Chicago.)

Whitehead, H. (2008b). Precision and power in the analysis of social structure using associations. Animal Behaviour 75, 1093–1099.
CrossRef |

Whitehead, H. (2009). SOCPROG programs: analysing animal social structures. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63, 765–778.
CrossRef |

Whitehead, H., Bejder, L., and Ottensmeyer, C. A. (2005). Testing association patterns: issues arising and extensions. Animal Behaviour 69, e1–e6.
CrossRef |

Woodroffe, R., Donnelly, C. A., Cox, D. R., Bourne, F. J., Cheeseman, C. L., Delahay, R. J., Gettinby, G., McInerney, J. P., and Morrison, W. I. (2006). Effects of culling on badger Meles meles spatial organization: implications for the control of bovine tuberculosis. Journal of Applied Ecology 43, 1–10.
CrossRef |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016