The Social Lives of Animals

Basic. Mar. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781541600836. $30. SCI
Ward (animal behavior, Univ. of Sydney) presents a tour of the multiple non-human species that qualify as social animals, because they cooperate within groups. Sociality improves the success of species, and studying social animals provides insights into human behaviors and societies. Ward begins small with krill, which swarm in the trillions to provide protection against predators; and roaches, which are usually alone when we spot them but actually live in groups. He describes the social stratification common in social insect communities; explains why and how schools of fish and flocks of starlings move as one organism in acrobatic ballets; and relates the findings of studies on the size of rat colonies, which led to the idea that overcrowding can result in violent behavior. Ward then discusses how herding served as a precondition for domestication, how large carnivores use social groups to hunt prey and hold territory, how pods of whales and dolphins respond in the face of threats, and how primates use grooming to strengthen group bonds.
VERDICT Engaging and entertaining; of interest to anyone who wants to better understand the behavior of social animals, including humans.
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