Great question! The term 'pack' usually
refers to a small or medium size group of animals,
but beyond that the term is somewhat vague.
Animals have a variety of social structures --
species can be completely solitary (e.g., great
white sharks), form complex societies (e.g.,
gorillas, ants, humans) and everything in between.
Frequently groups of animals that form small to
medium sized groups that we would consider a
'pack' are based around family units.
Sometimes, these small groups are comprised of two
parents and their children (such as a wolf pack).
The parents are the natural leaders of the pack
because the offspring need protection and the pack
stays in it's configuration until the young wolves
Sea lions are an alternative 'pack'
structure- there is one dominant male that
controls a harem of females (which are his mates)
that he protects/guards against other males.
'Leader' probably isn't as appropriate so
much as 'dominant', but the reason the male
controls the group (rather than some other male or
one of the females) is due to his larger physical
size and aggression.
The last example I'll give is that of an
honey bee colony, one of the most elaborate
social structures. The queen bee lays eggs which
hatch and become her sterile worker daughters. The
workers do everything: forage for food, defend the
nest, and raise up new workers. These workers are
bound to the colony via chemical
pheromones, and those chemical smells are how
the workers recognize the queen. However, the
queen doesn't lead her colony by 'telling' them
what to do. Their collective behavior is an
emergent property of many distinct individual
actions, but it's their instinctual response to
these chemical signals that result in it looking
like the queen is the 'leader'. The worker
daughters instinctually protect their mother,
the queen, and when it's time to find a new home
they form a swarm surrounding the queen and move
in mass. Despite the appearance that the queen is
in charge, however, it's actually the workers that
decide where they should next call home & it's a
democrat process based on votes by scout bees.
In a nutshell, 'pack' is a hard term to define.
In most cases, their formation is based on family
structures. Determining who is in charge is not
always easy, and frequently varies based on which
animals you are talking about.
Reference:--- Katherine LeVan, PhD in Biology
Insect Ecologist at the National Ecological
I'm not totally sure we know that in many cases.
Wolf packs are families, so the pack leader is
probably the most senior member of the family,
basically the head of a household that humans
would have. Lion prides are led by the most
physically intimidating male. I don't know
what the hierarchy there is in flocks of parrots
or crows, if they even have something like a pack
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