Royal Society Publishing

Activity synchrony and social cohesion: a fission-fusion model

L Conradt, T. J Roper


A social group can only be spatially coherent if its members synchronize activities such as foraging and resting. However, activity synchronization is costly to individuals if it requires them to postpone an activity that would be personally more profitable in order to do what the rest of the group is doing. Such costs will be particularly high in groups whose members belong to different age, size or sex classes since the optimal allocation of time to various activities is likely to differ between such classes. Thus, differences in the costs of activity synchronization between and within classes could cause non–homogenous groups to be less stable than homogenous groups, with the result that homogenous groups predominate in the population: that is, they could cause ‘social segregation’ of animals of different sex, size or age. We develop a model that predicts the degree of social segregation attributable to differences in activity synchronization between homogenous and non–homogenous groups and use this model in determining whether activity synchronization can explain intersexual social segregation in red deer (Cervus elaphus). Differences in activity synchronization between mixed–sex and unisex groups of red deer explained 35% of the observed degree of intersexual social segregation, showing that activity synchronization is an important cause of social segregation in this species.

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