Social species are cool. They can be characterized as creatures that interact with other members of their species, and where an individual's success is highly dependent on the overall cohesion and propagation of a group. In highly social species like ants and wild dogs, individuals form groups to optimise their fitness. When group size is small, extinctions are more likely, a demographic process known as the Allee effect. This has led to a widely-held assumption that social species are more prone to Allee effects. Evidence for this assumption, however, is rare.
ACS scientists Gloria Luque and colleagues have published a review in the Journal of Animal Ecology analyzing Allee effects in social species. The authors explore various species with contrasting social structures, such as carnivores, bats, primates, and eusocial insects. They go on to model the role of demographic and behavioural factors that may combine to strengthen Allee effects. The authors present a framework for thinking about the complex levels of Allee effects and how they interact to influence population dynamics.