why do some animals live in groups
Human beings are social animals, and studies have shown that deprivation of social interaction can have grave consequences on a personвs psychology. Social interaction is not exclusive to humans, as many animal species are known to live in social groups throughout their lives. Most social groups are based on closely related members, and the composition of these groups is defined by the death or birth of members. All three elephant species - African bush elephant, Asian elephant, and African forest elephant - have closely knitted social groups known as herds. These herds are predominantly comprised of female elephants and their offspring, and are led by an individual adult female matriarch who is usually the oldest elephant in the herd. Members of particular social groups are directly related. On the death of a matriarch, her eldest female offspring takes leadership of the herd regardless of the presence of other older and hence more experienced elephants. Male offspring are tolerated within the herd until they attain the age of 15, after which they leave the herd to lead solitary lives. In some instances, bull elephants come together to make a small group of bachelors, which are made up of about ten bulls. The lion is one of the few cats that exhibit social behavior, as most cats live solitary lifestyles. Female lions, or lionesses, in particular are known for their tightly-knit social groups, known as a pride of lions. The pride is made up of related lionesses and their young cubs. Most prides are headed by resident males who collectively form a coalition. Lionesses are intolerant of any outside lionesses and will chase away any lioness attempting to infiltrate the pride.
Male cubs leave their maternal pride after reaching 2-3 years of age, when they are mature and can live in the peripheries of other territories. Such male lions are known as nomads, and two related males will sometimes come together to establish nomadic pairs. A lion's pride is usually made up of 15 individuals, but large prides of over 30 lions are also known to exist. Individual lions within the pride have specific roles that they play, with the resident males being required to defend the pride from intruders. Wolves live in social groups known as packs. These packs are usually made up of the dominant mating pair and their offspring. Usually, packs are made up of between 5 and 11 wolves, but exceptionally huge packs with 42 wolves are known to exist. The offspring, called pups, live with the pack and are protected and provided for by adult wolves until they attain the age of sexual maturity, which is between 10 and 54 months, after which they disperse from the pack. Unrelated dispersed adult wolves form a pair and move to an unclaimed territory to establish a new pack. Wolves are extremely territorial and will aggressively fight intruders, sometimes to death. However, there are few instances where young wolves are adopted into a pack, and this usually happens to replace a deceased member. The size of a packвs territory covers an average area of 14 square miles, but one Alaskan wolf pack is known to have a territory which covers 2,422 square miles. Social groups present several benefits to their respective members, and one of them is that the offspring stand a better chance at survival due to communal efforts in their upbringing.
Herbivores living in social groups receive protection against predators through strength in numbers. Additionally, predators living in social groups are better suited to bring down large prey than those living solitary lives.
D r. Universe: Why do some animals live in groups? в Mrs. Rubertвs students, Foothill Knolls STEM Academy of Innovation, Upland, Calif. Dear Mrs. Rubert and Students, Fish swim in big schools. Baby ducks waddle in a straight line. Ants and bees divide up labor. The world is full of animals that live in groups and they do it for a few different reasons. For one, living in groups helps some animals avoid getting eaten by predators. Some even join forces to take down prey bigger than them with less risk and effort. Working together can also help them find more food. Ravens and rats, for example, will return from a hunt and let the rest of the group know where to find their next meal. Being part of a big group is also helpful when it comes to caring for young animals. Sperm whales, warthogs, and some fish will care for young that are not their own. In the future, others in their group will return the favor. Thatвs what I found out from my friend Charlotte Milling, a researcher at The Ohio State University who studied wildlife sciences at Washington State University. While there are advantages to living in a group, Milling said, there are also down sides. Sometimes a group gets so big it attracts the attention of predators. When food is scarce, having so many mouths to feed can make it harder to find food for everyone, too.
If there arenвt enough resources or the animals start getting really sick, it can be hard for other animals in the group to survive. Milling explained that while there are benefits to living in groups, it only works if the benefits to an animal are bigger than the costs in the long run. Believe it or not, finding out how animals work in groups can also help us engineer and design new technology, like self-driving cars. My friend Kshitij Jerath is an engineer at Washington State University. He studies how individual things make up groups and looks for big patterns to help us solve problems. He used a flock of birds as an example. Jerath explained that we can use math to calculate information about how a bird flies with its flock. How many neighbors does a bird have and how many can it see? How far away are these neighbors? How fast does it need to fly to stay with the group? Using a similar idea, Jerathвs research helps us learn more about swarms of drones and self-driving cars. A single self-driving car can move on its own but it has to interact with lots of cars on the road, too. Using math and engineering, Jerath is working to help us understand how self-driving cars can better avoid accidents or prevent big traffic jams. We still have a lot of unanswered questions about groups and systems in our world. Whether youвre looking at a pack, a pod, a school, or a flock, maybe one day you can help us learn more about animals and why they live in groups. Who knows? Learning from nature might even inspire you to come up with new ideas and inventions. Sincerely, Dr. Universe
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