Document Type


Publication Date


Published In

The American Naturalist


Social behaviors vary among individuals, and social networks vary among groups. Understanding the causes of such variation is important for predicting or altering ecological processes such as infectious disease outbreaks. Here, we ask whether age contributes to variation in social behavior at multiple levels of organization: within individuals over time, among individuals of different ages, among local social environments, and among populations. We used experimental manipulations of captive populations and a longitudinal dataset to test whether social behavior is associated with age across these levels in a long-lived insect, the forked fungus beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus). In cross-sectional analyses, we found that older beetles were less connected in their social networks. Longitudinal data confirmed that this effect was due in part to changes in behavior over time; beetles became less social over 2 years, possibly because of increased social selectivity or reproductive investment. Beetles of different ages also occupied different local social neighborhoods. The effects of age on behavior scaled up: populations of older individuals had fewer interactions, fewer but more variable relationships, longer network path lengths, and lower clustering than populations of young individuals. Age therefore impacted not only individual sociality but also the network structures that mediate critical population processes.


age, age structure, social behavior, animal social networks


This work is freely available courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Available for download on Sunday, December 01, 2024

Included in

Biology Commons