orming groups is a basic human drive. You are probably already a member of many groups: your family, your country, and probably multiple WhatsApp groups. But how did we humans become so social?

Researchers have long studied the evolution of social groups in bees and birds. It seems their complex societies evolved slowly starting with single individuals pairing off or living with a few off-spring. These small groups then gradually grew larger and more complicated, ultimately yielding complex organizations. It could be easily assumed the same is true for primates – and freshers. But Susanne Shultz of the University of Oxford and her colleagues think this is probably not that case.

“Scientists found that closely-related species tended to organise their societies in the same way wherever they were”

They scanned the scientific literature on 217 primate species and noticed that closely related species tended to organize their societies in the same way, no matter where they lived. They ran a statistical model to determine what type of group the last common ancestor to the monkeys and apes formed. To Shultz’ surprise, the most sensible solution suggested that the solitary ancestor started banding together not in pairs, as scientists had thought, but as loose groups of both sexes about 52 million years ago. But not all of today’s primates live in large, mixed-sex groups. A few live in exclusive pairs and some, such as gorillas, form harems. Shultz’ analysis shows that these social structures showed up only about 16 million years ago.

Science has spoken, you should start out your new social group as most primates do, a mixed sex group. And then after some time, maybe by third or fourth year, you might have yourself a harem or isolated yourself in an exclusive relationship. If this doesn’t appeal to you, be a Zebra. They are social but don’t form societies, entering and leaving herds at will. Just don’t be an ant. Ants can only distinguish between the basic kinds of workers, such as soldiers or the queen. Over its life, it develops no friends within its colony. The bond of each ant is totally to the society itself.