Sampling animal association networks with thegambit of the group

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Ecologists increasingly use network theory to examine animal association patterns. The gambit of the group (GoG) is a simple and useful assumption for accumulating the data necessary for a network analysis. The gambit of the group implies that each animal in a group is associating with every other individual in that group. Sampling is an important issue for networks in wild populations collected assuming GoG. Due to time, effort, and resource constraints and the difficulty of tracking animals, sampled data are usually a subset of the actual network. Ecologists often use association indexes to calculate the frequency of associations between individuals. These indexes are often transformed by applying a filter to produce a binary network. We explore GoG sampling using model networks. We examine assortment at the level of the group by a single dichotomous trait, along with many other network measures, to examine the effect of different sampling regimes, and choice of filter on the accuracy and precision with which measures are estimated. We find strong support for the use of weighted, rather than filtered, network measures and show that different filters have different effects depending on the nature of the sampling. We make several practical recommendations for ecologists planning GoG sampling.

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