chapter  5
26 Pages

Ecological Determinism and Sociobiology

WithStephen T. Emlen

The field of sociobiology has made major advances and attracted widespread attention during its short decade of existence as a theoretical and predictive science. The ecological frontier of sociobiology is concerned with understanding and predicting the forms of social organization that are found in nature. Its principles are based on behavioral and ecological models of predator-prey interaction, optimal foraging strategy, and resource defendability and accumulation. By integrating behavioral and ecological theory, it has become possible to begin to predict various aspects of social organization on the basis of a small number of ecological variables. The generalizability of the ecological predictions is impressive, as attested to by their broad applicability across phylogenetic lines. The pattern of dispersion of critical food resources is another important determinant of social organization. Several experimenters have tested the economic defendability model of territoriality by artificially manipulating the abundance and/or the spatial distribution of food resources.