Animal social networks can be extremely complex and are characterized by highly non-random interactions between group members. However, very little is known about the underlying factors affecting interaction preferences, and hence network structure. One possibility is that behavioural differences between individuals, such as how bold or shy they are, can affect the frequency and distribution of their interactions within a network. We tested this using individually marked three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), and found that bold individuals had fewer overall interactions than shy fish, but tended to distribute their interactions more evenly across all group members. Shy fish, on the other hand, tended to associate preferentially with a small number of other group members, leading to a highly skewed distribution of interactions. This was mediated by the reduced tendency of shy fish to move to a new location within the tank when they were interacting with another individual; bold fish showed no such tendency and were equally likely to move irrespective of whether they were interacting or not. The results show that animal social network structure can be affected by the behavioural composition of group members and have important implications for understanding the spread of information and disease in social group
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