Collective behaviour is everywhere in nature, from gene transcription and cancer cells to ant colonies and human societies. It operates without central control, using local interactions among participants to allow groups to adjust to changing conditions. The Ecology of Collective Behavior brings together ideas from evolutionary biology, network science, and dynamical systems to present an ecological approach to understanding how the interactions of individuals generate collective outcomes.
Deborah Gordon argues that the starting point for explaining how collective behaviour works in any natural system is to consider how it changes in relation to the changing world around it. She shows how feedback use – the means by which networks of interactions operate – and the organization of interaction networks evolve to reflect the stability and demands of the environment. Ant colonies function collectively, and the enormous diversity of species in different habitats provides opportunities to look for general ecological patterns. Through an in-depth comparison of ant species, Gordon identifies broad trends in how the diversity of collective behaviour in many other collective systems reflects the dynamics of the environment.
Shedding light on how individual actions give rise to group behaviour, The Ecology of Collective Behavior explains the evolution of collective behaviour through innovation in participant interactions, offering new insights into how collective responses function in changing conditions.
Deborah M. Gordon is professor of biology at Stanford University. She is the author of Ant Encounters: Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior (Princeton) and Ants at Work: How an Insect Society Is Organized.
"This engaging and thought-provoking book presents an ecological approach to the study of collective behavior, challenging more traditional approaches to the subject by emphasizing how systems interact with and respond to their environments rather than focusing on behavioral rules. The Ecology of Collective Behavior contributes a valuable perspective to the field."
– Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin, University of Konstanz
"Gordon provides a very useful introduction to the study of collective behavior that is timely given the growing recognition of the need to develop a better understanding of the factors leading to diverse collective outcomes."
– Jessica Flack, Santa Fe Institute