A framework for conceptualizing dimensions of social organization in mammals


Mammalian societies represent many different types of social systems. While some aspects of social systems have been extensively studied, there is little consensus on how to conceptualize social organization across species. Here, we present a framework describing eight dimensions of social organization to capture its diversity across mammalian societies. The framework uses simple information that is clearly separated from the three other aspects of social systems: social structure, care system, and mating system. By applying our framework across 208 species of all mammalian taxa, we find a rich multidimensional landscape of social organization. Correlation analysis reveals that the dimensions have relatively high independence, suggesting that social systems are able to evolve different aspects of social behavior without being tied to particular traits. Applying a clustering algorithm allows us to identify the relative importance of key dimensions on patterns of social organization. Finally, mapping mating system onto these clusters shows that social organization represents a distinct aspect of social systems. In the future, this framework will aid reporting on important aspects of natural history in species and facilitate comparative analyses, which ultimately will provide the ability to generate new insights into the primary drivers of social patterns and evolution of sociality

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This paper was published in MPG.PuRe.

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