The evolution of war and peace in animal societies
Dr. Faye Thompson
University of Exeter
In nature, conflict and cooperation arise at every level of biological complexity, among teams of genes, cells and individuals, and also among societies. Understanding why groups fight and how conflict between groups can be resolved is an outstanding scientific and societal challenge. Here I discuss our research on two very different species that we are using to uncover the factors that drive war and those that promote peace: the banded mongoose, a highly cooperative mammal that engages in aggressive gang warfare, and the Pacific dampwood termite which exhibits a full spectrum of intergroup relationships, from lethal fighting to peaceful fusion. Our work has revealed intriguing patterns of aggression and cooperation across these taxa that can help us to shed light on the evolutionary causes and consequences of war and peace.