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Trends Ecol Evol. 2013 Sep;28(9):541-51. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.06.002. Epub 2013 Jul 13.

Reality mining of animal social systems.

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Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, 12587 Berlin, Germany.


The increasing miniaturisation of animal-tracking technology has made it possible to gather exceptionally detailed machine-sensed data on the social dynamics of almost entire populations of individuals, in both terrestrial and aquatic study systems. Here, we review important issues concerning the collection of such data, and their processing and analysis, to identify the most promising approaches in the emerging field of 'reality mining'. Automated technologies can provide data sensing at time intervals small enough to close the gap between social patterns and their underlying processes, providing insights into how social structures arise and change dynamically over different timescales. Especially in conjunction with experimental manipulations, reality mining promises significant advances in basic and applied research on animal social systems.


animal social network; biologging; biotelemetry; group-living; high-resolution data; movement; proximity logging; social behaviour

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