In the late 1990s and early 2000s it was recognized that behavioral ecologists needed to study the sociality of caviomorph rodents (New World hystricognaths) before generalizations about rodent sociality could be made. Researchers identified specific problems facing individuals interested in caviomorph sociality, including a lack of information on the proximate mechanisms of sociality, role of social environment in development, and geographical or intraspecific variation in social systems. Since then researchers have described the social systems of many previously understudied species, including some with broad geographical ranges. Researchers have done a good job of determining the role of social environments in development and identifying the costs and benefits of social living. However, relatively little is known about the proximate mechanisms of social behavior and fitness consequences, limiting progress toward the development of integrative (evolutionary-mechanistic) models for sociality. To develop integrative models behavioral ecologists studying caviomorph rodents must generate information on the fitness consequences of different types of social organization, brain mechanisms, and endocrine substrates of sociality. We review our current understanding and future directions for research in these conceptual areas. A greater understanding of disease ecology, particularly in species carrying Old World parasites, is needed before we can identify potential links between social phenotypes, mechanism, and fitness.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1