Individuals can play different roles in maintaining connectivity and social cohesion in animal populations and thereby influence population robustness to perturbations. We performed a social network analysis in a reef shark population to assess the vulnerability of the global network to node removal under different scenarios. We found that the network was generally robust to the removal of nodes with high centrality. The network appeared also highly robust to experimental fishing. Individual shark catchability decreased as a function of experience, as revealed by comparing capture frequency and site presence. Altogether, these features suggest that individuals learnt to avoid capture, which ultimately increased network robustness to experimental catch-and-release. Our results also suggest that some caution must be taken when using capture–recapture models often used to assess population size as assumptions (such as equal probabilities of capture and recapture) may be violated by individual learning to escape recapture.
- Received October 18, 2016.
- Accepted February 20, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.