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Measuring site fidelity and spatial segregation within animal societies

Richardson, Thomas O.; Franks, Nigel R.; Sendova-Franks, Ana B.; Giuggioli, Luca

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Thomas O. Richardson

Nigel R. Franks

Ana B. Sendova-Franks

Luca Giuggioli


© 2017 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. Animals often display a marked tendency to return to previously visited locations that contain important resources, such as water, food, or developing brood that must be provisioned. A considerable body of work has demonstrated that this tendency is strongly expressed in ants, which exhibit fidelity to particular sites both inside and outside the nest. However, thus far many studies of this phenomena have taken the approach of reducing an animal's trajectory to a summary statistic, such as the area it covers. Using both simulations of biased random walks, and empirical trajectories from individual rock ants, Temnothorax albipennis, we demonstrate that this reductive approach suffers from an unacceptably high rate of false negatives. To overcome this, we describe a site-centric approach which, in combination with a spatially-explicit null model, allows the identification of the important sites towards which individuals exhibit statistically significant biases. Using the ant trajectories, we illustrate how the site-centric approach can be combined with social network analysis tools to detect groups of individuals whose members display similar space-use patterns. We also address the mechanistic origin of individual site fidelity; by examining the sequence of visits to each site, we detect a statistical signature associated with a self-attracting walk – a non-Markovian movement model that has been suggested as a possible mechanism for generating individual site fidelity.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 23, 2017
Online Publication Date Mar 20, 2017
Publication Date Aug 1, 2017
Deposit Date Mar 21, 2017
Publicly Available Date Apr 4, 2017
Journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Electronic ISSN 2041-210X
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 8
Pages 965-975
Keywords animal movement, ant, non-Markov, random walk, social network, social insect, Temnothorax albipennis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Mar 21, 2017


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