Social network analysis and the study of sociality in bats

Joseph S. Johnson, Jessica N. Kropczynski, Michael J. Lacki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Many bat species are known for being gregarious, forming mixed- or single-sex social groups commonly referred to as colonies. The number of studies investigating sociality in bats is rapidly increasing, with studies ranging from basic descriptions of the number of males and females within social groups to studies using social network analysis. Studies of sociality in bats are taking increasingly diverse approaches to data collection, analysis and interpretation, leaving researchers with an array of perspectives on how to conduct future research. These perspectives are difficult to synthesize, but an integrated understanding of pioneering works in this field should help researchers build upon what is already known about sociality in bats and formulate new hypotheses. Herein we provide a review of methodologies used to measure social interactions, relationships, and structure in bats. We review assumptions, sources of bias, strengths, and limitations of these methods. We emphasize that while all of the reviewed methods are well suited for assessing social interactions and relationships, each method will impact analyses of social structure and should be considered carefully. We encourage further use of social network analysis as a framework for conceptualizing, designing, and analyzing studies of bat sociality. We do not advocate any single network analysis methodology, as network analysis is continually evolving and no one technique is well suited for all research questions. Instead, we recommend several specific network measures we believe are appropriate for different types of research questions and datasets and discuss the strengths and limitations of popular analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalActa Chiropterologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Chiroptera
  • Fission-fusion
  • Social behavior
  • Social organization
  • Social structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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