Ecological Research

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 521–531

Complexity, dynamics and diversity of sociality in group-living mammals



Numerous studies in group-living animals with stable compositions have demonstrated the complex and dynamic nature of social behaviour. Empirical studies occasionally provide principles that cannot be applied directly to other group-living species. Because of this, researchers are required to address fine-scaled conceptual questions and to incorporate species-specific characteristics of the study species. In this paper, I raise three key topics that will promote our understanding of animal sociality: the effects of heterogeneous social relationships on the pattern, distribution, and function of social interactions; conflict management for maintaining group living; and meta-dyad-level perspectives for understanding dyadic social relationships and behaviours. Through the discussion of these topics together with examples of group-living mammals, I emphasise the importance of direct behavioural observations and functional analyses in studies of species- or taxonomic-group-specific characteristics of social behaviour in a wide range of taxonomic groups. In addition to approaches focusing on specificity, another approach that examines the general principles or common characteristics found across different taxonomic groups could provide synthetic and reductive frameworks to understand divergent sociality. The complementary use of these two approaches will offer a comprehensive understanding of social evolution in group-living animals.


Sociality Social relationship Group living Mammals Social diversity 


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary Studies of BiosystemsThe Graduate University for Advanced StudiesKanagawaJapan

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