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  • Cited by 81
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
April 2017
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Book description

Darwin famously described special difficulties in explaining social evolution in insects. More than a century later, the evolution of sociality - defined broadly as cooperative group living - remains one of the most intriguing problems in biology. Providing a unique perspective on the study of social evolution, this volume synthesizes the features of animal social life across the principle taxonomic groups in which sociality has evolved. The chapters explore sociality in a range of species, from ants to primates, highlighting key natural and life history data and providing a comparative view across animal societies. In establishing a single framework for a common, trait-based approach towards social synthesis, this volume will enable graduate students and investigators new to the field to systematically compare taxonomic groups and reinvigorate comparative approaches to studying animal social evolution.


‘This authoritative book will be an excellent resource for all students of social evolution, including practised hands and those yet to take the stage. Covering all the major groups of social organisms in both the invertebrates and vertebrates, its expert authors systematically set out the social and associated traits of their favoured taxa. A tight editorial structure ensures a uniformity of approach that readers, typically familiar with just one or a few groups but eager to broaden their outlook, will greatly appreciate. In their closing synthesis, the editors describe the book as a 'starting point' for the comparative social evolutionary studies of the future. It will surely help stimulate a renaissance in such studies, but the editors are too modest; they and the authors have already performed an admirable service to the discipline in bringing together such a rich synthesis of information and insight.’

Andrew Bourke - University of East Anglia

'Comparative Social Evolution provides a unique attempt to identify contrasts and similarities in the distribution and evolution of social behaviour in different groups of animals. Successive chapters describe the structure of social groups in different taxa, ranging from aphids to primates, and their relationship to variation in life history parameters, breeding systems and genetic structure, each written by leading researchers in their field. By synthesizing current knowledge of the distribution of social behaviour and its correlates in different groups, Comparative Social Evolution lays the foundation for attempts to build a general framework capable of explaining the diversity of animal societies.'

Tim Clutton-Brock - University of Cambridge

‘Social interactions define how life is organized, from molecules to microbes, in the ocean and on land. There has been a revolution in our understanding of life that is based on an appreciation of the importance of social behavior. Social evolution theory, particularly kin selection, has changed our view of conflicts within organisms like cancer and imprinting, and of how microbes interact and affect us, to give two key examples. But the theory that has developed to explain these interactions comes nearly entirely from observations of animals in their native habitats. This book provides a fabulous compilation of the biology of social interactions in animals. The chapters are clearly and carefully written by leaders in their fields. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to know where the theories are rooted, or anyone who simply wants to enjoy the marvellous stories of animal social behaviour.’

Joan Strassmann - Washington University, St Louis

'Powerful, elegant theory guides our understanding of animal social behavior, but an historical tradition of confining empirical insights to particular taxonomic and methodological silos means the devil remains in the detail. This excellent volume resolves this issue by imposing a strict framework to each taxon-focused chapter, thereby allowing readers to gain invaluable, perhaps unprecedented insights from chapters outside their taxonomic comfort zone. The canny will read the book cover to cover, recognizing that the editors have facilitated creative debate in the grand comparative tradition - uncluttered by taxon-specific misunderstandings.'

Mark Elgar - University of Melbourne, Australia

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