Some animals live solitary lifestyles depending on only themselves to survive. Then there are the animals that prefer living in numbers so they can help take care of group. For animals that live in groups, the name of the groups may be different for each species.
For instance, look at the following examples. Wolves live and hunt in packs, but prairie dogs live in coteries. Bats congregate in cauldrons, and camels travel in caravans. A group of crows is called a murder, while dolphins live in pods. To name a few.
In this article we’ll look at examples for 23 examples of such animals, and learn what a group of them is called. But first, let’s learn a little about why group living is so important for these animals.
Why do some animals live in groups?
While many animals may genuinely enjoy each other’s company, it really boils down to a few primal things that help increase an animals chances of survival. Animals that live in groups typically do so for one or all of the following reasons:
- There’s safety in numbers
- Hunting together yields better results
- Raise young together
- Help take care of each other in some way
Some animals are better suited to a group-life, others prefer a life of solitude. To each his own.
With that being said, let’s get straight to the list!
23 animals that live in groups
The following list consists of 23 hand-picked animals that live in groups. Keep reading for a picture and interesting info about each one.
A group of crows is called: a flock or a murder
There are 45 different species of crows that can be found all around the world. Most crows are all black or black and gray in color, and are fairly large in size. Crows are not only considered to be intelligent amongst other birds, but perhaps one of the most intelligent of all animals. They are able to solve certain puzzles, use tools to get food, engage in play, and recognize individual humans. Crows have a diverse diet including fruits, nuts, eggs, mice, frogs and scavenging carrion. They can gather in large roosting groups of 200 to thousands, especially during the winter. These huge groups are often found near large food sources like garbage dumps, shopping centers or agricultural fields.
A group of elephants is called: a herd or a parade
Elephants win the title of largest land animal. There are currently three subspecies, two from Africa and one from Asia. Females will spend their whole lives living in family groups of up to ten. The group will consist of only female members of the family, and they are lead by the eldest female. When she dies, her eldest daughter will be the new leader. Sometimes groups may band together, for example when to defend their watering holes against other clans.
Males will only live within these groups when they are young. As they mature they spend more time at the edge of the group until they go off and live on their own or with other males. Generally the males only interact with a female group during mating, but also sometimes just to socialize.
A group of wolves is called: a pack or rout
The global wolf population is estimated at 300,000, composed of about 38 subspecies. Wolves are believed to be the ancestor of todays domestic dogs. A wolf pack is usually made up of an adult mated pair and their offspring under the age of 4 years old. Average pack size in North America is 8 wolves, and 5-6 wolves in Europe. After young wolves reach about 4 years old they will leave the group to look for their own territory and mate. Occasionally during times of very abundant food, like large animal migrations, two or more wolf packs may temporarily join together. The famous wolf howl is used for communication. It may be calling the pack back together after a hunt, to sound an alarm, to find each other after a storm, or generally communicate over a long distance.
4. Prairie dogs
A group of prairie dogs is called: a coterie or a clan when referring to a family, and a town when referring to a group of families.
Prairie dogs, who are rodents and not actual “dogs”, are found in the grasslands of North America. Each family group consists of an adult breeding male (sometimes 2), 2-3 adult females, 1-2 young females and 1-2 young males. Females will remain in the group their whole lives, while males will leave to form their own families when they reach adulthood. Members of these family groups will groom each other and even “kiss”.
15-28 of these family groups together form a “town”. These towns can span hundreds of acres, consisting of each families burrows. They are very territorial about their burrow systems and will fight members of other family groups if they get too close to their territory.
5. Sea Otters
A group of otters is called: a family or a raft
Sea otters are an endangered species native to the coasts of the North Pacific Ocean. They are considered to be a keystone species in most of their range because they eat sea urchins and keep their populations under control. Sea otters forage for food alone and spend a lot of time alone, however they are known to gather together in large groups to rest. They float on their back while resting, and may gather together in same-sex groups of 10 to 100 otters called a “raft”. To keep from drifting too far away from the shore when resting, sea otters may wrap themselves in kelp. Gathering in these rafts not only gives them the opportunity to socialize, but may help ensure predators are more easily spotted.
A group of lions is called: a pride. Groups of males are called a coalition.
Lions are apex predators that can only be found today in southern Africa and a small section of India. They are the most social of the big cat species, living in prides of around 15 lions. The core of the pride are the females, who are all related. Females can only be born into the pride, non-related females are not tolerated. Male cubs are sent away from the pride at about 2-3 years old, when they reach maturity. By the time they are 4 or 5 years old, they will be able to displace a male associated with another pride. Males will typically stay associated with the same pride until they are challenged and ousted by another male.
Female lions do the majority of the hunting for the group, and hunt together. Males sometimes hunt as well, but will do so alone. Males also act more as the protectors and defend the group from threats or other lions. When resting, which lions do a lot, they perform socializing behaviors such as head rubbing and social licking.
A group of bees is called: in the hive they are called a hive or colony, outside the hive they are called a swarm.
Honey bees, who are important pollinators, can have between 20,000 – 100,000 bees in their colony. They have three “castes” in their hive. Each bee is either a worker, a drone, or a queen. There is only one queen per hive, and she is responsible for laying all the eggs. Drones are male and their job is to mate with the queen. There is a small percentage of the hive that are drones, a few hundred. All the other thousands of bees in the hive are workers. Workers are female but they do not reproduce. They are the ones that keep the hive going by doing all the cleaning, guarding, feeding the developing babies, collecting the pollen and building the honeycomb. Amazingly, through a series of movements they can communicate with each other where to find the best flowers.
8. Spotted Hyenas
A group of species is called: a clan or cackle
Spotted hyenas are dog-like creatures that live in central and southern Africa. The hyena is adaptable and will both hunt for food and scavenge. When it comes to hunting, spotted hyenas sometimes go it alone, or in hunting parties of 2 to 5 or more individuals. They live together in “clans” that can include up to 80 hyenas. Each clan marks it’s own territory and unless food becomes scarce, these boundaries are not often crossed by other clans. There is a complex social structure in these clans, with dominant females at the top. Females are sorted by rank usually based on age, with the eldest and her kin at the top, and the youngest and her kin at the bottom. Males must leave the clan once they reach maturity. They will find a new clan and enter at the bottom of the social ladder.
A group of gorillas is called: a troop
Gorillas are only found in certain areas of Africa today, and both the Eastern and Western Gorillas are considered endangered species. They are primarily herbivores, and mainly walk around on the knuckles of their long front arms. Gorilla groups, called “troops” are usually made up of one adult male, multiple adult females, and their offspring. The head male in the group is called a silverback. The silverback protects his troop, and if he should die the females and their young will disperse and join new troops, or else their young might be at risk of being killed by a rival troop. The silverback makes all the decisions in the group, protects the females and the young, and mediates any internal group conflicts. His relationship with the adult females of the group is important, and they maintain their bond by sticking close together and often grooming each other.
A group of dolphins is called: a pod
There are many species of dolphins found in oceans throughout the world. They are thought to be one of the smartest animals in the world, and they are also highly social. Pods generally consist of 2 – 30 dolphins. Sometimes superpods of hundreds of dolphins can form to take advantage of mating or hunting opportunities, but this is only temporary. Dolphins within a pod can communicate with each other through clicks and whistles, but also body language. Sharing a pod allows them to teach each other things like hunting and courtship, while also using the group to care for and protect the young.
A group of jellyfish is called: a smack, a bloom, or a swarm
Jellyfish are certainly a diverse group. They can be as small as a peanut or a big as a person, some with the ability to sting. But the large groups you can sometimes find these jellies in may have more to do with water currents than any type of social structure. Not being very strong swimmers, jellyfish are often at the mercy of the waters currents, and may simply get rounded up by the sea. However, it has been noted that some jellyfish species tend to stick together as a group. It is believed that for smaller jellyfish, this helps protect them from predators. Or it may be a tactic to increase reproductive success. Researchers are still studying how jellyfish sense and interact with each other.
A group of raccoons is called: a gaze or a nursery
Native to North America, these nocturnal mammals are easy to identify by their black eye masks and ringed tails. Raccoons are smart and curious animals, and have done well adapting to suburban environments. For a long time it was thought raccoons were solitary, but new research shows they may have social groups after all. Related females may loosely group together, finding food and foraging on their own but coming together to share a common space for eating and resting. Unrelated males may band together in small groups during mating season to aid in maintaining their position against “foreign” males coming into their territory. However, sometimes males are aggressive towards unrelated offspring, and a mother may isolate herself and her young kits from all other raccoons until they are old enough to defend themselves.
13. Red Fox
A group of foxes is called: a pack or a skulk
Red foxes are a large member of the fox family, and can be found across much of the Northern Hemisphere as well as some areas of Africa and Australia. Foxes are semi-social in that they don’t live in large groups, but do spend most of their time living in a family unit. In the winter an adult male and female will mate, then have their babies in the spring. The young will stay with them until the next winter, when they are old enough to mate and start families of their own.
At that point most of the offspring will go off and start their own families, but sometimes one or more adults will continue to stay with mom and dad a little longer, and be “helpers” raising the next set of young. However when each fox is old enough to hunt on its own, it is responsible for getting its own food, even while they all share a den.
A group of deer is called: a herd
Groups of deer mainly consist of the dominant male, several females and their offspring. The male has a territory and breeding rights with the females therein, and he will defend this territory against other males. This is why males have antlers and females do not, they use those antlers to fight other males. Females within a herd may spend time together or apart, but overall they gain security among the group. Living together also means they can share where the good places to find food are, and alert each other of danger. Young bachelor males occasionally get together in groups, but that only lasts until they fully mature and then will not be able to tolerate the other males due to their territorial nature.
A group of species is called: a dazzle
While they may all appear the same at first glance, there are three species of Zebra that live in different parts of Africa. Like many species, they live in a family group that is made up of one male, several females and their offspring. Within the group, females that have been part of the group the longest tend to have dominance. Plains zebras family groups may also come together into larger herds consisting of subgroups, and this lets individuals interact with other zebras outside of their group. As part of these groups, the females benefit from more time for feeding and protection of their young from predators and outside males.
16. American Alligator
A group of alligators is called: a congregation
Alligators are the reptile apex predator of the southeastern United States. In the spring they gather in large groups for courtship and mating. Female alligators lay their eggs in a large nest above the water level. After her babies hatch, she will carry each one from the nest down to the water and keep them together in a “pod”. They may be put into a pod with other newly born alligators, and these young alligators will stay very close to their mothers for a year (sometimes even two years). In this way, the moms can work together to protect the hatchling alligators from predators. Males, especially large males, remain mostly solitary outside of the breeding season.
Alligators have an array of vocalizations they can use to communicate with each other and other animals. Some of their noises are used to claim territory, threaten competing alligators, signal distress, and to locate mates.
A group of rats is called: a colony or a mischief
Rats can be found across the world, distinguished from mice by their larger size. They have a complex relationship with humans, from being disease carriers and agricultural pests to being kept as pets and used for important medical research. Rats are very social can live in large colonies. In these colonies they have a social hierarchy with levels of dominance. In a healthy colony there aren’t many squabbles, but if stress is placed on the group, such as limited food or living space, aggressive behavior may occur and is dealt with by the dominant rats.
Rats are known to play fight with each other, jumping, tumbling and chasing each other around. They will also groom each other, sleep in group nests, and huddle. Huddling is part of their socialization and also uses their combined body heat to stay warm more efficiently.
A group of chimpanzees is called: a community or a troop
A community of chimpanzees contains about 20 to 150 members. Within the community are typically smaller groups. These smaller groups can exist for any number of purposes, such as a group of males that is hunting together for meat, or a group of lactating females caring for the babies. Males are the core of the community, and are responsible for patrolling the territory, protecting the group and finding food. Males can gain and maintain dominance in many ways, from brute strength to forming alliances with other males.
Females too can have a hierarchy amongst other females depending on personality, success in reproducing and finding food, or even being the offspring of a high-ranking mom or dad. As you can see there are many factors that can go into this dynamic social structure. Those at the top fight to stay there, while those at the bottom are always plotting to get to the top. But it’s not all “back stabbing”, chimps are also known for building friendships and sharing knowledge and resources with each other.
A group of giraffes is called: a tower or a herd
All giraffe species are found in Africa, and while they are often found in groups, they do not have a rigid social structure like many other animals. They gather can gather in loose herds of 10 to 50 individuals, but they come and go at will and do not have strong bonds with each other, outside of mothers and offspring. In smaller groups, 10-12 females may often be found in a small herd together. These female groups help each other out by taking turns watching the young and feeding. Young males may also form small “bachelor” herds where they play fight each other and gauge who is strongest and most dominant. Once they are older and reach maturity they are often solitary except for breeding.
Many experts believe this lax social structure and lack of defined territory helps giraffes survive in the wild because they are able to adapt more easily to changes in environment and food availability.
20. Guinea Baboon
A group of baboons is called: a troop
Baboons are a type of primate, and there are five baboon species all native to Africa. Most baboons live in troops of about 50 individuals, but can range from only 5 to over 100. Since some of the baboons species have different social structures, for the purposes of this article we are using the Guinea baboon, native to western Africa, as an example.
A Guinea baboon group consists of one dominant male, several females and their offspring, and sometimes a follower, subordinate male. These small groups band together in a large troop. Females will choose the male who’s group they want to join, and the males may use facial expressions and other gestures in an attempt to win them over. This is unlike some other baboon species in with the males forcibly acquire their females.
Another interesting thing about Guinea baboons is the males often use “reconciliation gestures” in an attempt to decrease aggression, and increase cooperation, between males of different groups. This focus on a more cooperative spirit rather than aggressive and territorial, helps the baboon troop to grow quite large.
21. Emperor Penguins
A group of penguins is called: a rookery or a colony
Nearly all species of penguin breed in large colonies, which can range from as few as 100 pairs to hundreds of thousands! Living in such large groups has forced penguins to learn many ways to interact with each other, including both vocalizations and visual displays like head-bowing. They use these various sounds and displays to communicate nesting territory, during courtship, to identify each other and to warn each other of threats. Many species also seem to enjoy being physical with each other, and will rub up against each other socially. The male and female penguin form monogamous pairs during the breeding season, and most species share in the incubation duties.
For many penguins, there’s safety in numbers when dodging predators. Emperor penguins, who have to survive extremely cold environments, not only use each others body heat during huddling to remain warm, but they systematically take turns being at the cold outer edge of the pack. Talk about team work.
A group of meerkats is called: a gang or a mob
Meerkats are members of the mongoose family and live in large groups in underground burrows. A meerkat mob is made up of multiple family groups (they don’t have to be related), with one dominant pair that produces most of the young. By playing together and grooming each other, they keep a tight social bond. Living in the group helps keep everyone safe. A meerkat is always standing guard and will make an alarm call if it sees a predator approaching. Once warned, all meerkats will run for the nearest “bolt hole” in the ground until the danger has passed. Meerkats also work together to kill venomous snakes.
A group of parrots is called: a flock or a pandemonium
Recent studies have shown that members of the parrot family not only live in flocks, but also have complex social structures. The most important relationship in the group seems to be the pair bond, with parrots spending the most time with their mate. But they also have relationships with other parrots in the flock, with varying degrees of closeness. It has been observed that when parrots have a confrontation, there was a clear winner and loser and the loser would be positioned further down on the social ladder. Young parrots practice social interactions with their siblings, and foraging from their parents.