Nature’s creatures often exhibit impulses of self-assertion and competition. But all through life’s vast range, these instincts are balanced by another kind of drive. Nature does not implant in her children just the single message: Take care of yourself. Ancient and universal, there is a second injunction: Get together. It is as vital as the breath of life.
Every creature has a need for companionship as biologically important as food and drink. Testing tadpoles, zoologists have found that even these humble creatures are so deeply influenced by social need that a solitary tadpole can regenerate an injured part of the body only slowly, but if it given the dimly sensed comradeship of fellow tadpoles its healing powers speed up almost miraculously. University of Chicago scientists have discovered that when mice are raised in contact with fellow mice they grow faster than mice reared on an identical diet in isolation.
Animals often develop teamwork into active patterns of partnership. R.M. Yerkes, an authority on apes, gave a chimpanzee a heavy box of fragrant delicacies with a complicated lid-fastener. Sniffing delightedly, the chimp tried to drag away the box so he could work at leisure on the task of getting it open. It was too heavy, so he sought out another chimp, tapped him on the shoulder, and gestured for help. Together, the two easily moved the box, worked jointly at opening it, and shared the feast.