Just like people, animals have social networks and we can describe those networks using tools from social science and mathematical graph theory. I have been using social network analysis to study dominance relationships in birds and fish. In two recent studies, I have shown that animal dominance hierarchies are dependent on the attributes of individuals and also on extrinsic factors (such as life-history stage). Additionally, I demonstrated that a statistical technique called ‘exponential random graph models’ has widespread utility in the study of animal networks, and could provide new answers to old questions about social behaviour.

Dey CJ, Tan QYJ, O’Connor CM, Reddon AR, Caldwell JR & Balshine S. 2015. Dominance network structure across reproductive contexts in the cooperatively breeding cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher. Current Zoology 61: 45-54

Dey CJ, Quinn JS. 2014. Individual attributes and self-organizational processes affect dominance network structure in pukeko. Behavioral Ecology 25: 1402-1408.