Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Are fission-fusion dynamics consistent among populations? A large-scale study with Cape buffalo


Wielgus, Elodie et al. (2021), Data from: Are fission-fusion dynamics consistent among populations? A large-scale study with Cape buffalo, Dryad, Dataset,


Fission-fusion dynamics allow animals to manage costs and benefits of group living  by adjusting group size. The degree of intraspecific variation in fission-fusion dynamics across the geographical range is poorly known. During 2008-2016, 38 adult female Cape buffalo were equipped with GPS collars in three populations located in different protected areas (Gonarezhou National Park and Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe; Kruger National Park, South Africa) to investigate the patterns and environmental drivers of fission-fusion dynamics among populations. We estimated home range overlap and fission and fusion events between Cape buffalo dyads. We investigated the temporal dynamics of both events at daily and seasonal scales and examined the influence of habitat and distance to water on event location. Fission-fusion dynamics were generally consistent across populations: fission and fusion periods lasted on average between less than one day and three days. However, we found seasonal differences in the underlying patterns of fission and fusion, which point out the likely influence of resource availability and distribution in time on group dynamics: during the wet season, Cape buffalo split and associated more frequently and were in the same or in a different subgroup for shorter periods. Cape buffalo subgroups were more likely to merge than to split in open areas located near water, but overall vegetation and distance to water were very poor predictors of where fission and fusion events occurred. This study is one of the first to quantify fission-fusion dynamics in a single species across several populations with a common methodology, thus robustly questioning the behavioral flexibility of fission-fusion dynamics among environments.

Usage Notes

This file contains the home range overlap (HRO) between two individuals (dyads) and the proportion of time they spent in the same subgroup (Time.spent.together), with other variables indicating site, season and year. Home range overlap between individuals was estimated using the Bhattacharyya’s affinity index, see text for details. 

This file contains the distances between synchronous locations of collared buffalo within each dyad whose individuals share space (HRO > 0). Distance is in meters. Another variable (Together) indicates whether the two individuals were considered being in the same subgroup, using the definition presented in the main text. Other variables indicate site, season and year as well as date and time (GMT). 

This file contains the distance to water and the vegetation class at fission and fusion event locations, and at locations when two individuals were in the same subgroup and a different subgroup. These four events/periods are indicated in the column ‘Type’, with: 1, the random points defining the periods where individuals were in separated subgroups; 2, the random points defining the periods where individuals were in the same subgroup, 3, the actual fusion events and 4, the actual fission events. Distance to water is in kilometres. In ‘Vegetation’ data, 1 corresponds to grasslands, 2 corresponds to bushlands and 3 corresponds to woodlands.