Primate social group sizes exhibit a regular scaling pattern with natural attractors

R. I.M. Dunbar*, Padraig Mac Carron, Susanne Shultz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Primate groups vary considerably in size across species. Nonetheless, the distribution of mean species group size has a regular scaling pattern with preferred sizes approximating 2.5, 5, 15, 30 and 50 individuals (although strepsirrhines lack the latter two), with a scaling ratio of approximately 2.5 similar to that observed in human social networks. These clusters appear to form distinct social grades that are associated with rapid evolutionary change, presumably in response to intense environmental selection pressures. These findings may have wider implications for other highly social mammal taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170490
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Clustering
  • Evolutionary rates
  • Female cohort
  • Optimal group size
  • Social networks


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