Dynamic interactions among badgers: implications for sociality and
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume 77 Issue 4,Pages 735-745 Published Online: 18 Mar 2008
Direct interactions between individuals play
an important part in the sociality of group-living animals, their
mating system and disease transmission. Here, we devise a methodology
to quantify relative rates of proximity interaction from
radio-tracking data and highlight potential asymmetries within the
contact network of a moderate-density badger population in the
north-east of England.
We analysed radio-tracking data from four
contiguous social groups, collected over a 3-year period. Dynamic
interaction analysis of badger dyads was used to assess the movement
of individuals in relation to the movement of others, both within and
between social groups. Dyads were assessed with regard to season, sex,
age and sett use pattern of the badgers involved.
Intragroup separation distances were
significantly shorter than intergroup separation distances, and
interactions between groups were rare. Within groups, individuals
interacted with each other more often than expected, and interaction
patterns varied significantly with season and sett use pattern.
Non-mover dyads (using the main sett for day-resting on >50% of
occasions) interacted more frequently than mover dyads (using an
outlier sett for day-resting on >50% of occasions) or mover–non-mover
dyads. Interactions between group members occurred most frequently in
Of close intragroup interactions (<50m
separation distance), 88·6% were associated with a main sett and only
4·4% with outlier setts. Non-mover dyads and non-mover–mover dyads
interacted significantly more often at the main sett than mover-only
dyads. These results highlight the importance of the main sett to
badger sociality and support the suggestion that badger social groups
are comprised of different subgroups, in our case based on
differential sett use patterns.
Asymmetries in contact structure within a
population will affect the way in which diseases are transmitted
through a social network. Assessment of these networks is essential
for understanding the persistence and spread of disease within
populations which do not mix freely or which exhibit heterogeneities
in their spatial or social behaviour.
bovine tuberculosis • contact network • contact rate
• Meles meles • radio-telemetry
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