Heritable victimization and the benefits of agonistic relationships

Amanda J Lea, Daniel T Blumstein, Tina W Wey, Julien G A Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Here, we present estimates of heritability and selection on network traits in a single population, allowing us to address the evolutionary potential of social behavior and the poorly understood link between sociality and fitness. To evolve, sociality must have some heritable basis, yet the heritability of social relationships is largely unknown. Recent advances in both social network analyses and quantitative genetics allow us to quantify attributes of social relationships and estimate their heritability in free-living populations. Our analyses addressed a variety of measures (in-degree, out-degree, attractiveness, expansiveness, embeddedness, and betweenness), and we hypothesized that traits reflecting relationships controlled by an individual (i.e., those that the individual initiated or were directly involved in) would be more heritable than those based largely on the behavior of conspecifics. Identifying patterns of heritability and selection among related traits may provide insight into which types of relationships are important in animal societies. As expected, we found that variation in indirect measures was largely explained by nongenetic variation. Yet, surprisingly, traits capturing initiated interactions do not possess significant additive genetic variation, whereas measures of received interactions are heritable. Measures describing initiated aggression and position in an agonistic network are under selection (0.3 textless textbarStextbar textless 0.4), although advantageous trait values are not inherited by offspring. It appears that agonistic relationships positively influence fitness and seemingly costly or harmful ties may, in fact, be beneficial. Our study highlights the importance of studying agonistic as well as affiliative relationships to understand fully the connections between sociality and fitness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21587-21592
Number of pages6
Issue number50
Early online date29 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2010


  • animal model
  • animal social networks
  • yellow-bellied marmots


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