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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2007 Apr 29;362(1480):539-59.

The adaptive value of sociality in mammalian groups.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


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.

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