Human beings are social animals, and studies have shown that deprivation of social interaction can have grave consequences on a person’s 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.
Common Examples Of Animals Who Live in Groups
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 pack’s 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.
Benefits of Living in Social Groups
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.