The Web of Life (125) Animal Sociality


Animal communities are not mere assemblages of species living together but form closely-knit communities or societies comparable to our own. ~ English zoologist Charles Elton

Conspecifics commonly congregate to be safer and live more productive lives. Microbes group to create biofilms – an elaborate communal form that offers a better life. Plants too can be gregarious, both with microbial mutualists and with each other.

Insects swarm. Birds flock. Mammals travel in herds and hunt in packs.

Each species has a typical group size at which it functions most efficiently. ~ English zoologist Desmond Morris

Sociality is a life-history variable, not an emblem of evolutionary advance. Living is mentally demanding, period. There is no shortage of problem-solving irrespective of lifestyle.

That said, social relations do tax the mind. In presocial animals, trade-off decisions must be made between self-interest and shared interest. Relationship history matters.

With no prospect of social climbing, eusocial animals may seem to have an easier time. But eusocial creatures typically have prodigious memory capacities, as there are many friends and otherwise much to remember. A life of colonial cooperation yields a rich social life.

Sociality is not just a set of behavior patterns. It is instead an integral part of an organism’s biology, woven into the fabric of being. Environment and life experience shape intelligence physiology as much as they impress upon the mind.

Prolonged isolation for individuals of any social species has profound biological diminishment as well as psychological impairment. Genetic quality deteriorates. Aging accelerates. In short, sociality is hardwired as an evolutionary adaptation.

Social ties promote survival. ~ English zoologist Lauren Brent