Defining Yellow-bellied Marmot social groups using association indices
We evaluated the utility of using association indices to define Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) social groups. We analyzed locational data collected by trapping and regular observations using the program SOCPROG 2.2 (Whitehead 2004); a program traditionally used to study marine mammal associations from observational data. We first focused on simple groups (i.e., those with only a single adult female) to explore various analysis options and then applied them to interpret association patterns in more complex social groups. We suggest that social groups can be defined as groups containing those individuals with a = 0.5 association index. Given our sampling protocols, sufficient data were obtained only when we used the year as the unit of analysis. When applied to more complex social groupings, this criterion meshed with observers’ less quantitative estimation of group memberships. In conclusion, calculating association indices using SOCPROG is a novel way to describe marmot association patterns and to define social groups quantitatively.
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