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Supplementary material from "Identifying the social context of single- and mixed-species group formation in large African herbivores"

Posted on 2023-03-17 - 06:16
Despite continued interest in mixed-species groups, we still lack a unified understanding of how ecological and social processes work across scales to influence group formation. Recent work has revealed ecological correlates of mixed-species group formation, but the mechanisms by which concomitant social dynamics produce these patterns, if at all, is unknown. Here, we use camera trap data for six mammalian grazer species in Serengeti National Park. Building on previous work, we found that ecological variables, and especially forage quality, influenced the chances of species overlap over small spatio-temporal scales (i.e. on the scales of several metres and hours). Migratory species (gazelle, wildebeest and zebra) were more likely to have heterospecific partners available in sites with higher forage quality, but the opposite was true for resident species (buffalo, hartebeest and topi). These findings illuminate the circumstances under which mixed-species group formation is even possible. Next, we found that greater heterospecific availability was associated with an increased probability of mixed-species group formation in gazelle, hartebeest, wildebeest and zebra, but ecological variables did not further shape these patterns. Overall, our results are consistent with a model whereby ecological and social drivers of group formation are species-specific and operate on different spatio-temporal scales.This article is part of the theme issue ‘Mixed-species groups and aggregations: shaping ecological and behavioural patterns and processes’.

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