Play fighting social networks do not predict injuries from later aggression.

Simon Turner, Jennifer E. Weller, Irene Camerlink, Gareth Arnott, Taegyu Choi, Andrea Doeschl-Wilson, Marianne Farish, Simone Foister

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Early play fighting mimics later aggression in many species, and may, therefore, be expected to reduce costs from later aggressive interactions. Using social network analysis (SNA) the effect of a central play fighting network position on later skin lesions from aggression was assessed in domestic pigs. Piglets (n = 263) were kept in litter groups or socialised pre-weaning with another litter to enhance play fighting experience. Play fighting was recorded for 1.5 h per day over 6 days pre-weaning. Play fighting network centrality was quantified using measures of individual network position and entire network structure (degree, eigenvector, betweenness, clustering coefficient). Skin lesions from aggression were counted after a dyadic contest and at 24 h and 3 weeks following group mixing. Pigs with play fighting interactions with many partners experienced fewer lesions from the dyadic contest (in-degree, p = 0.01) and tended to received fewer lesions 3 weeks after group mixing (degree, p = 0.088) but no other play fighting centrality measures affected the number of lesions at any point. The benefits of play fighting were therefore limited to specific aggressive social contexts. The tendency of socialised piglets to play fight with non-littermates did not affect subsequent lesions. We advocate the use of SNA over approaches that only consider dyadic interactions to further our understanding of the influence of early social group interactions on later life experience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15486
Number of pages16
JournalNature Scientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2020


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