The socio-matrix reloaded: from hierarchy to dominance profile in wild lemurs

PeerJ. 2015 Jan 15:3:e729. doi: 10.7717/peerj.729. eCollection 2015.


Dominance hierarchy influences the life quality of social animals, and its definition should in principle be based on the outcome of agonistic interactions. However, defining and comparing the dominance profile of social groups is difficult due to the different dominance measures used and because no one measure explains it all. We applied different analytical methods to winner-loser sociomatrices to determine the dominance profile of five groups of wild lemurs (species: Lemur catta, Propithecus verreauxi, and Eulemur rufus x collaris) from the Berenty forest (Madagascar). They are an excellent study model because they share the same habitat and an apparently similar dominance profile: linear hierarchy and female dominance. Data were collected over more than 1200 h of observation. Our approach included four steps: (1) by applying the binary dyadic dominance relationship method (I&SI) on either aggressions or supplant sociomatrices we verified whether hierarchy was aggression or submission based; (2) by calculating normalized David's scores and measuring steepness from aggression sociomatrices we evaluated whether hierarchy was shallow or steep; (3) by comparing the ranking orders obtained with methods 1 and 2 we assessed whether hierarchy was consistent or not; and (4) by assessing triangle transitivity and comparing it with the linearity index and the level of group cohesion we determined if hierarchy was more or less cohesive. Our results show that L. catta groups have got a steep, consistent, highly transitive and cohesive hierarchy. P. verreauxi groups are characterized by a moderately steep and consistent hierarchy, with variable levels of triangle transitivity and cohesion. E. rufus x collaris group possesses a shallow and inconsistent hierarchy, with lower (but not lowest) levels of transitivity and cohesion. A multiple analytical approach on winner-loser sociomatrices other than leading to an in-depth description of the dominance profile, allows intergroup and cross-species comparisons.

Keywords: Lemurs; Linearity; Madagascar; Prosimians; Sifaka; Social management; Steepness; Strepsirhines; Transitivity.

Grants and funding

Giardino Zoologico di Pistoia, Parco Zoo Falconara, and Parco Zoo Punta Verde (Italy) reimbursed travel and accommodation fees for field data collection. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.