, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 277–295 | Cite as

Using multiplex networks to capture the multidimensional nature of social structure

  • Sandra E. Smith-AguilarEmail author
  • Filippo Aureli
  • Laura Busia
  • Colleen Schaffner
  • Gabriel Ramos-Fernández
Special Feature: Original Article Social networks analysis in primates, a multilevel perspective


Network analysis has increasingly expanded our understanding of social structure in primates and other animal species. However, most studies use networks representing only one interaction type, when social relationships (and the emerging social structure) are the result of many types of interactions and their interplay through time. The recent development of tools facilitating the integrated analysis of multiple interaction types using multiplex networks has opened the possibility of extending the insight provided by social network analysis. We use a multiplex representation of interactions among the members of a group of wild Geoffroy’s spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi), to study their social structure. We constructed a six-layered multiplex network based on three indices of overt social interactions (aggression, embraces, grooming) and three distance-based indices (contact, proximity, and association). With tools provided by the MuxViz software, we assessed the relevance of including all six indices in our analysis, the role of individuals in the network (through node versatility), and the presence of modules and non-random triadic structures or motifs. The multiplex provided information which was not equivalent to any individual layer or to the simple aggregation of layers. Network patterns based on associations did not correspond with those observed for overt-interactions or for the multiplex structure. Males were the most versatile individuals, while multiplex modularity and motifs highlighted the relevance of different interaction types for the overall connectivity of the network. We conclude that the multiplex approach improves on previous methods by retaining valuable information from each interaction type and how it is patterned among individuals.


Social network analysis Multilayer networks Social interactions Robert Hinde Ateles geoffroyi Node versatility 



We thank Ivan Puga, Sebastian Sosa, and Cédric Sueur for their invitation to participate in this special issue. We also thank Anthony R. Denice for his outstanding contribution in data collection, Augusto Canul, Eulogio Canul, Juan Canul, and Macedonio Canul for their valuable assistance during fieldwork, and Dr. Kelly Finn together with an anonymous reviewer for their valuable and useful comments and suggestions. SSA would also like to thank Sherie Simms for support and inspiration throughout the writing of this paper. We are also indebted to the Chester Zoo, The National Geographic Society, the Instituto Politécnico Nacional and the Consejo Nacional por la Ciencia y la Tecnologia (CONACyT) for financial support. We conducted this research with permission from CONANP and SEMARNAT (SGPA/DGVS/00910/13 and SGPA/DGVS/02716/14).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

10329_2018_686_MOESM1_ESM.docx (173 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 172 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Interdisciplinario de Investigación para el Desarrollo Integral Regional, Unidad OaxacaInstituto Politécnico NacionalSanta Cruz XoxocotlánMexico
  2. 2.Conservación Biológica y Desarrollo Social ACMexico CityMexico
  3. 3.Instituto de NeuroetologíaUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico
  4. 4.Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and PalaeoecologyLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  5. 5.School of Sociology and AnthropologySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  6. 6.Psychology DepartmentAdams State UniversityAlamosaUSA
  7. 7.Instituto de Investigación en Matemáticas Aplicadas y Sistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  8. 8.Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  9. 9.Unidad Profesional Interdisciplinaria en Ingeniería y Tecnologías Avanzadas, Instituto Politécnico NacionalMexico CityMexico

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