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Social tipping points in animal societies

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  • Jonathan Pruitt
  • Andrew Berdahl
  • Christina Riehl
  • Noa Pinter-Wollman
  • Holly Moeller
  • Elizabeth Pringle
  • Lucy Aplin
  • Elva Joan Hilda Robinson
  • Jacopo Grilli
  • Pamela Yeh
  • Van Savage
  • Michael Price
  • Joshua Garland
  • Ian Gilby
  • Margaret Crofoot
  • Grant Doering
  • Elizabeth Hobson


Publication details

JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 31 Aug 2018
DatePublished (current) - 19 Sep 2018
Issue number1887
Number of pages9
Original languageEnglish


Animal social groups are complex systems that are likely to exhibit tipping points—which are defined as drastic shifts in the dynamics of systems that arise from small changes in environmental conditions—yet this concept has not been carefully applied to these systems. Here we summarize the concepts behind tipping points and describe instances in which they are likely to occur in animal societies. We also offer ways in which the study of social tipping points can open up new lines of inquiry in behavioral ecology and generate novel questions, methods, and approaches in animal behavior and other fields, including community and ecosystem ecology. While some behaviors of living systems are hard to predict, we argue that probing tipping points across animal societies and across tiers of biological organization—populations, communities, ecosystems—may help to reveal principles that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Bibliographical note

©2018 The Authors

    Research areas

  • phase transition, tipping point, complex system, collapse, cooperation, extinction, hysteresis, social network, personality, collective behaviour, animal behaviour, behavioural ecology

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