The adaptive value of sociality in mammalian groups

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507 Scopus citations


According to behavioural ecology theory, sociality evolves when the net benefits of close association with conspecifics exceed the costs. The nature and relative magnitude of the benefits and costs of sociality are expected to vary across species and habitats. When sociality is favoured, animals may form groups that range from small pair-bonded units to huge aggregations. The size and composition of social groups have diverse effects on morphology and behaviour, ranging from the extent of sexual dimorphism to brain size, and the structure of social relationships. This general argument implies that sociality has fitness consequences for individuals. However, for most mammalian species, especially long-lived animals like primates, there are sizable gaps in the chain of evidence that links sociality and social bonds to fitness outcomes. These gaps reflect the difficulty of quantifying the cumulative effects of behavioural interactions on fitness and the lack of information about the nature of social relationships among individuals in most taxa. Here, I review what is known about the reproductive consequences of sociality for mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-559
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1480
StatePublished - Apr 29 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Fitness
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Reproductive success
  • Social bonds
  • Social organization
  • Sociality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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