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Daily ranging and den usage patterns structure fission-fusion dynamics and social associations in spotted hyenas


Strauss, Eli et al. (2021), Daily ranging and den usage patterns structure fission-fusion dynamics and social associations in spotted hyenas, Dryad, Dataset,


Environment structure often shapes social interactions. Spatial attractors that draw multiple individuals may play a particularly important role in dispersed groups, where individuals must first encounter one another to interact. We use GPS data recorded simultaneously from five spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) within a single clan to investigate how communal dens and daily ranging patterns shape fission-fusion dynamics (subgroup splits and merges). We introduce a species-general framework for identifying and characterizing dyadic fission-fusion events and describe a taxonomy of ten possible configurations of these events. Applying this framework to the hyena data illuminates the spatiotemporal structure of social interactions within hyenas' daily routines. The most common types of fission-fusion events involve close approaches between individuals, do not involve co-travel together, and occur at the communal den. Comparison to permutation-based reference models suggests that den usage structures broad-scale patterns of social encounters, but that other factors influence how those encounters unfold. We discuss the dual role of communal dens in hyenas as physical and social resources, and suggest that dens are an example of a general "social piggybacking" process whereby environmental attractors take on social importance as reliable places to encounter conspecifics, causing social and spatial processes to become fundamentally intertwined.


National Science Foundation, Award: OISE1853934, IOS1755089, OIA 0939454

Human Frontier Science Program, Award: RGP0051/2019

Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung

Carlsberg Foundation


Universität Konstanz

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: EXC 2117 – 422037984