Challenging Leading Social Behavior Theories

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A recent study published by scientists from the University of Oxford challenges well established theories about social behavior, according to an article in The New York Times today.  The findings, published in the journal Nature are based on the research of over 200 primate species whose social organization has already been determined.

“[The] new survey emphasizes the major role of genetics in shaping sociality. Being rooted in genetics, social structure is hard to change, and a species has to operate with whatever social structure it inherits.

If social behavior were mostly shaped by ecology, then related species living in different environments should display a variety of social structures. But the Oxford biologists—Susanne Shultz, Christopher Opie and Quentin Atkinson—found the opposite was true: Primate species tended to have the same social structure as their close relatives, regardless of how and where they live.

The Old World monkeys, for example, a group that includes baboons and macaques, live in many habitats, from savanna to rain forest to alpine regions, and may feed on fruit or leaves or grass. Yet all have very similar social systems, suggesting that their common ancestry—and the inherited genes [10-08 meters] that shape behavior—are a stronger influence than ecology on their social structure.”

To read the full article from The New York Times, click here.

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