Inferring symmetric and asymmetric interactions between animals and groups from positional data

Edward Hollingdale, Francisco Javier Pérez-Barbería, David Mc Petrie Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Interactions between domestic and wild species has become a global problem of growing interest. Global Position Systems (GPS) allow collection of vast records of time series of animal spatial movement, but there is need for developing analytical methods to efficiently use this information to unravel species interactions. This study assesses different methods to infer interactions and their symmetry between individual animals, social groups or species. We used two data sets, (i) a simulated one of the movement of two grazing species under different interaction scenarios by-species and by-individual, and (ii) a real time series of GPS data on the movements of sheep and deer grazing a large moorland plot. Different time series transformations were applied to capture the behaviour of the data (convex hull area, kth nearest neighbour distance, distance to centre of mass, Voronoi tessellation area, distance to past position) to assess their efficiency in inferring the interactions using different techniques (cross correlation, Granger causality, network properties). The results indicate that the methods are more efficient assessing by-group interaction than by-individual interaction, and different transformations produce different outputs of the nature of the interaction. Both species maintained a consistent by-species grouping structure. The results do not provide clear evidence of inter-species interaction based on the traditional framework of niche partitioning in the guild of large herbivores. In view of the transformation-dependent results, it seems that in our experimental framework both species co-exist showing complex interactions. We provide guidelines for the use of the different transformations with respect to study aims and data quality. The study attempts to provide behavioural ecologists with tools to infer animal interactions and their symmetry based on positional data recorded by visual observation, conventional telemetry or GPS technology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0208202
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Inferring symmetric and asymmetric interactions between animals and groups from positional data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this