Co-Operation among Non-Humans

Cooperation between non-humans is widespread and has been seen in various animal groups. For instance, social insects like bees and ants collaborate to create and maintain their communities, with people fulfilling specific tasks like food gathering, child care, and nest defense. Many bird species also collaborate in different ways, such as through cooperative breeding, where multiple people assist in rearing the offspring of a breeding couple.

What is Co-Operation among Non-Humans?

Cooperation among non-human animals involves individuals working together to achieve a common goal or mutual benefit, such as obtaining food, defending territory, or raising offspring. This behavior can arise through kin selection, reciprocal altruism, or mutualism and can be observed in various animal species. Non-human cooperation provides insights into the evolution of social behavior and the mechanisms underlying cooperation in animals and humans.

Driving Co-Operative Action

Various factors, including kinship, reciprocity, and mutual benefit, can drive cooperation among non-human animals. Kin selection, for example, explains why social insects often have highly related individuals working together in a colony. This increases the likelihood that their shared genes will be passed on to future generations. Reciprocity can also drive cooperation, as seen in cooperative hunting behavior among some predators, where individuals take turns leading the hunt to share in the spoils.

Another way can be through mutual grooming. Many primates engage in mutual grooming, where individuals groom each other's fur, picking out parasites and dead skin. This grooming behavior promotes social bonding, helps maintain hygiene, and reduces the risk of disease transmission. By grooming each other, individuals can build trust and establish relationships that can be beneficial in the future.

Mutual benefit is one of the main drivers of cooperation among non-human animals. Mutual benefit occurs when two or more individuals work together to achieve a common goal that benefits all parties involved. This type of cooperation is often seen when resources are limited, and individuals can achieve tremendous success by working together rather than acting alone. Some bird groups demonstrate mutual advantage cooperation.

Oxpeckers, for example, are birds that graze on ticks and other parasites that infest big animals like zebras and giraffes. In exchange, the mammals accept the oxpeckers' existence and even provide a secure haven for them to roost. This collaboration helps both parties: the oxpeckers get food, and the animals get parasite elimination. Again, by collaborating, both sides benefit in ways that neither could accomplish alone.

Major and Distinct Co-Operative Activities among Species

It includes −

Social Insects

Social insects, such as bees, ants, and termites, are some of the most cooperative animals on the planet. They live in colonies where each individual performs a specialized role that contributes to the overall success of the colony. For example, worker bees cooperate in gathering nectar and pollen from flowers and then bringing it back to the hive to be processed into honey and other products. Other bees are responsible for caring for the young, defending the nest, and regulating the temperature inside the hive. The colony's success depends on each individual's efficient and coordinated actions.


Many bird species engage in cooperative breeding, where multiple individuals help raise a breeding pair's offspring. This type of cooperation is prevalent in birds that live in harsh environments, where the chances of offspring survival are low without help. For example, in some species of birds, non-breeding individuals will assist with incubating and rearing the young, bringing food to the nest, and helping defend against predators. This behavior benefits the group, increasing the chances of offspring survival and future reproduction.


Wolves live in packs, with individuals cooperating to hunt prey, care for the young, and defend their territory. In wolf packs, alpha males and females usually lead the group and make most decisions. The other wolves in the pack cooperate by following the leaders, hunting together, and caring for the young. Cooperation within a wolf pack is critical for the group's survival, as wolves are social animals and rely on each other for protection and support.

Special Case of Co-operation among Vampire Bats and Chimpanzees

Vampire Bats

Vampire bats are known for their unique cooperative behavior in feeding. These bats feed exclusively on blood, and when they go out to feed, not all of them successfully find a host. However, the bats that find a host can share their blood meal with other bats in the colony through reciprocal altruism. A type of collaboration known as reciprocal altruism involves two people helping one another in exchange for a favor in the future.

In the case of vampire bats, the bats that successfully found a host will regurgitate some of the blood they have ingested and share it with other bats in the colony. This sharing of blood helps ensure that all the bats in the colony are well-fed, even if some of them cannot find a host that night. Studies have shown that vampire bats are highly selective in their choice of partners for reciprocal altruism.

They tend to share blood with individuals they have previously shared with rather than strangers or those who have not returned the favor. This suggests that vampire bats can recognize and remember the individuals they have interacted with and establish long-term social relationships based on cooperation and mutual benefit.


Chimpanzees are social animals that live in complex societies with hierarchical structures, and cooperation plays a vital role in their politics. Here are some ways in which cooperation works in chimpanzee politics −

  • Coalition Formation: One of the primary ways that cooperation works in chimpanzee politics is through coalition formation. Chimpanzees form alliances with each other in order to achieve their goals, whether that be acquiring food, gaining status, or defending their territory. These coalitions can be temporary or long-lasting, involving both males and females.

  • Support for Alpha Males: Chimpanzee societies are typically led by an alpha male who is the dominant individual in the group. Other males often form coalitions to support the alpha male and help him maintain his position. This can involve supporting him in conflicts with other males or assisting with hunting or other activities.

  • Maternal Alliances: Female chimpanzees also form alliances with each other, particularly around the time of giving birth. They will help each other care for their young, share food, and defend against others who may pose a threat. These alliances can last for years and can be important for female chimpanzees to maintain their social status and protect their offspring.

  • Conflict Resolution: Cooperation also plays a role in conflict resolution in chimpanzee societies. When conflicts arise, chimpanzees often use displays of aggression or physical violence to resolve them. However, they sometimes use more peaceful methods, such as grooming or sharing food, to reconcile and restore social bonds.


The cooperative behavior species within the ecosystem presents a remarkable example of how animals can work together to ensure their survival and well-being. Especially in the case of Vampire Bats and Chimpanzees, sharing resources, mates, groups, and status in such a way explains how these mammals can maintain such a stable and cohesive social structure.

Overall, the study of cooperation among non-humans provides insight into the complexities of social behavior and how animals adapt to their environments.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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