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Social complexity and kinship in animal societies [Ecology Letters]

Keywords : behaviour, cognition, competition, cooperation, evolution, kinship, relatedness, social complexity, sociality

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

Studies of eusocial invertebrates regard complex societies as those where there is a clear division of labour and extensive cooperation between breeders and helpers. In contrast, studies of social mammals identify complex societies as those where differentiated social relationships influence access to resources and reproductive opportunities. We show here that, while traits associated with social complexity of the first kind occur in social mammals that live in groups composed of close relatives, traits associated with the complexity of social relationships occur where average kinship between female group members is low. These differences in the form of social complexity appear to be associated with variation in brain size and probably reflect contrasts in the extent of conflicts of interest between group members. Our results emphasise the limitations of any unitary concept of social complexity and show that variation in average kinship between group members has far‐reaching consequences for animal societies.

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