Multilevel Organisation of Animal Sociality

Cyril C. Grueter, Xiaoguang Qi, Dietmar Zinner, Thore Bergman, Ming Li, Zuofu Xiang, Pingfen Zhu, Andrea Bamberg Migliano, Alex Miller, Michael Krützen, Julia Fischer, Daniel I. Rubenstein, T. N.C. Vidya, Baoguo Li, Maurício Cantor, Larissa Swedell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Multilevel societies (MLSs), stable nuclear social units within a larger collective encompassing multiple nested social levels, occur in several mammalian lineages. Their architectural complexity and size impose specific demands on their members requiring adaptive solutions in multiple domains. The functional significance of MLSs lies in their members being equipped to reap the benefits of multiple group sizes. Here, we propose a unifying terminology and operational definition of MLS. To identify new avenues for integrative research, we synthesise current literature on the selective pressures underlying the evolution of MLSs and their implications for cognition, intersexual conflict, and sexual selection. Mapping the drivers and consequences of MLS provides a reference point for the social evolution of many taxa, including our own species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)834-847
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • multilevel society
  • social complexity
  • socioecology


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