Decrease in social cohesion in a colonial seabird under a perturbation regime

Genovart, Meritxell Giménez, OlivierBertolero, AlbertChoquet, RémiOro, Daniel Pradel, Roger.  Scientific Reports 10 : 18720 (2020) DIGITAL CSIC  

Social interactions, through infuence on behavioural processes, can play an important role in populations’ resilience (i.e. ability to cope with perturbations). However little is known about the efects of perturbations on the strength of social cohesion in wild populations. Long-term associations between individuals may refect the existence of social cohesion for seizing the evolutionary advantages of social living. We explore the existence of social cohesion and its dynamics under perturbations by analysing long-term social associations, in a colonial seabird, the Audouin’s gull Larus audouinii, living in a site experiencing a shift to a perturbed regime. Our goals were namely (1) to uncover the occurrence of long-term social ties (i.e. associations) between individuals and (2) to examine whether the perturbation regime afected this form of social cohesion. We analysed a dataset of more than 3500 individuals from 25 years of monitoring by means of contingency tables and within the Social Network Analysis framework. We showed that associations between individuals are not only due to philopatry or random gregariousness but that there are social ties between individuals over the years. Furthermore, social cohesion decreased under the perturbation regime. We sustain that perturbations may lead not only to changes in individuals’ behaviour and ftness but also to a change in populations’ social cohesion. The consequences of decreasing social cohesion are still not well understood, but they can be critical for the population dynamics of social species.