The long reach of family ties


The social structure of a population shapes many aspects of individuals’ lives. Network analysis details how individuals are tied to one another within a “social network” (1). Although the relevance of social networks for behavior and ecology is becoming well established, the processes that govern their underlying structure, and individuals’ social positions relative to others, are less well known (2). On p. 348 of this issue, Ilany et al. (3) apply social network analysis to a population of wild spotted hyenas over 27 years and spanning multiple hyena generations. Their findings support a proposed model (2) that inheritance of social network ties—specifically that offsprings’ social bonds are derived from their mothers’ social affiliates—plays a key role in shaping social structure across generations. Furthermore, these inherited networks may be linked to survival, providing a potential selective force that promotes the evolution of the inheritance of social networks.

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