12. Reconstructing Social Behavior from Fossil Evidence

  1. David R. Begun
  1. J. Michael Plavcan

Published Online: 14 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch12

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

How to Cite

Michael Plavcan, J. (2013) Reconstructing Social Behavior from Fossil Evidence, in A Companion to Paleoanthropology (ed D. R. Begun), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch12

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 JAN 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 FEB 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444331165

Online ISBN: 9781118332344



  • behavioral-ecological modeling;
  • fossil record;
  • phylogenetic reconstruction;
  • primates;
  • social behavior


Understanding social behavior in extinct organisms provides a context for understanding life in the present. There are several lines of evidence that are typically brought to bear in the inference of social behavior in extinct species: argument from analogy, phylogenetic inference, indirect morphological, physiological or ecological correlates, direct morphological correlates (primarily sexual dimorphism) and behavioral-ecological modeling. Sexual dimorphism forms critical evidence for social behavior in fossil record. The chapter briefly reviews models for the evolution of dimorphism in primates which enable the reader to understand the issues associated with using comparative analysis of living species to infer behavior in extinct species