Living in Groups


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Group behaviour is an interesting topic for people wanting to understand human society, as well as people wanting to understand pets such as fish, flock-birds, and dogs, that are group animals. Why do we live in groups? What are the benefits and the costs? What is the best size for a group? How is membership of a group decided? All these issues and more are discussed in 'Living in Groups'.

Jens Krause and Graeme Ruxton are biologists with a particular interest in fish, and they started out studying groups by looking at shoaling fish. Many of the concepts used in understanding how and why fish live in groups are applicable to all animals that live in group societies. The authors have focused on these concepts to give an account of living in groups. There aren't many examples for people interested in particular kinds of animals, such as wolves, though there is an interesting short section on social carnivores, such as wild dogs and wolves. What this book does offer is a very well-organised summary of current wisdom on grouping behaviour, which is a great help to anyone studying the subject seriously.

'Living in Groups' isn't light reading, and you do need commitment to the subject. There is no glossary, so if you are a non-biologist you may need the help of a biology dictionary. However, it's clearly written, and summarises a lot of work on the subject, so it can save you a lot of time if you want to understand theories relating to groups, and have a broad overview of recent research - 'Living in Groups' came out in 2002, so it is quite up-to-date. There is a long reference list for anyone who wants to cover topics in greater depth, especially useful for people looking for information on particular species. There is also an author index, and there's a general index.