Data from: A simple behavioral model predicts the emergence of complex animal hierarchies

  • Takao Sasaki (Creator)
  • Clint A. Penick (North Carolina State University) (Creator)
  • Zachary Shaffer (Creator)
  • Kevin L. Haight (Creator)
  • Stephen Pratt (Creator)
  • Juergen Liebig (Creator)



Social dominance hierarchies are widespread, but little is known about the mechanisms that produce non-linear structures. In addition to despotic hierarchies, where a single individual dominates, shared hierarchies exist where multiple individuals occupy a single rank. In vertebrates, these complex dominance relationships are thought to develop from interactions that require higher cognition, but similar cases of shared dominance have been found in social insects. Combining empirical observations with a modeling approach, we show that all three hierarchy structures-linear, despotic, and shared-can emerge from different combinations of simple interactions present in social insects. Our model shows that a linear hierarchy emerges when a typical winner-loser interaction (dominance biting) is present. A despotic hierarchy emerges when a policing interaction is added that results in the complete loss of dominance status for an attacked individual (physical policing). Finally, a shared hierarchy emerges with the addition of a "winner-winner" interaction that results in a positive outcome for both interactors (antennal dueling). Antennal dueling is an enigmatic ant behavior that has previously lacked a functional explanation. These results show how complex social traits can emerge from simple behaviors without requiring advanced cognition.
Date made availableFeb 8 2016

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