Current Biology 26 (2016) pp. 75-79. Elsevier. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.005
Network resilience to perturbation is fundamental to functionality in systems ranging from synthetic communication networks to evolved social organization. While theoretical work offers insight into causes of network robustness, examination of natural networks can identify evolved mechanisms of resilience and how they are related to the selective pressures driving structure. Female African elephants (Loxodonta africana ) exhibit complex social networks with node heterogeneity in which older individuals serve as connectivity hubs. Recent ivory poaching targeting older elephants in a well studied population has mirrored the targeted removal of highly connected nodes in the theoretical literature that leads to structural collapse. Here we tested the response of this natural network to selective knockouts.