Social trajectories and the evolution of social behavior

S. Helms Cahan, D. T. Blumstein, L. Sundström, J. Liebig, A. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Current research on the evolution of sociality seeks to integrate a wealth of species-specific studies to draw more generalized conclusions. Developing a unified theory of social cvolution has been a challenging process, hampered by the inherent complexity of social systems. By viewing a species' social structure as the result of a series, or "trajectory", of decisions individuals make about whether or not to disperse from their natal territory, whether to co-breed or refrain from breeding, and whether or not to provide alloparental care, we can more easily evaluate whether selective factors influencing each social decision are similar across taxa. At the same time, the social trajectory framework highlights the interrelationships among different social decisions, both throughout the life of an individual and over evolutionary time. There are likely to be multiple unifying themes within sociality research; we hope that the simple framework outlined here will promote exchange between researchers across taxonomic disciplines to begin to identify common principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-216
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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