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A social animal is a loosely defined term for an organism that is highly interactive with other members of its species to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society.

All animals are social to some extent—sexual reproduction requires animals to come in contact together in order to mate, and in animals showing any degree of parental care there is a minimal social unit of one or more parents and their offspring. The term "social animal" is usually only applied when there is a level of social organization that goes beyond this, with permanent groups of adults living together, and relationships between individuals that endure from one encounter to another.

Animal social behavior and organization is studied in comparative psychology, ethology, sociobiology and behavioral ecology. Typical issues in social behaviour are:

  • What is the typical size of the group? What factors limit group size? What factors lead to groups merging or splitting?
  • Does the species show territoriality? If so, to what extent? If territories are maintained, what is their purpose? Are they held by an individual or a group?
  • Are there permanent social dominance relationships within the group? Is there any pattern within them?

A few species, notably insects of the orders Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps) and Isoptera (termites) show an extreme form of sociality, involving highly organized societies, with individual organisms specialized for distinct roles. This form of social behavior is referred to as eusociality. Some vertebrates, most notably the Naked Mole Rat, are also eusocial.

Some animals whose social behavior is of particular interest:

See also

Sociobiology zh:社会化动物

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