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n. (context biology English) A social colony of individuals who, through division of labour, effective communication and self-organization, form a highly connected community that functions as if it were a single organism.


A superorganism is an organism consisting of many organisms. The term is used most often to describe a social unit of eusocial animals, where division of labour is highly specialised and where individuals are not able to survive by themselves for extended periods. Ants are the best-known example of such a superorganism, while the naked mole-rat is a famous example of the eusocial mammal. The technical definition of a superorganism is "a collection of agents which can act in concert to produce phenomena governed by the collective," phenomena being any activity "the hive wants" such as ants collecting food and avoiding predators, or bees choosing a new nest site. Superorganisms tend to exhibit the behaviours of homeostasis, power law scaling, persistent disequilibrium and emergent behaviours.

The term was coined in 1789 by James Hutton, the "Father of Geology", to refer to Earth in the context of geophysiology. The Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock, and Lynn Margulis as well as the work of Hutton, Vladimir Vernadsky and Guy Murchie, have suggested that the biosphere can be considered a superorganism, although this has been disputed strongly. This view relates to systems theory and the dynamics of a complex system.

Superorganisms are important in cybernetics, particularly biocybernetics. They exhibit a form of "distributed intelligence," a system in which many individual agents with limited intelligence and information are able to pool resources to accomplish a goal beyond the capabilities of the individuals. Existence of such behavior in organisms has many implications for military and management applications, and is being actively researched.

If Col. Thorpe [of the US DARPA] has his way, the four divisions of the US military and hundreds of industrial subcontractors will become a single interconnected superorganism. The immediate step to this world of distributed intelligence is an engineering protocol developed by a consortium of defense simulation centers in Orlando Florida ...

Superorganism (album)

Superorganism is an album by the Mickey Hart Band, a musical group led by former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. It was released by 360° Productions on August 13, 2013.

On Superorganism, musicians singing and playing instruments such as guitar, bass, keyboards, and various drums combined their music with sounds created using Hart's own brain waves. The brain wave sounds were created by using computers to change electrical impulses from an EEG cap into audible frequencies.

The lyrics for four of the songs were written by Robert Hunter, who wrote the words for many Grateful Dead songs.

In the album liner notes, Hart wrote, "A superorganism is a complex organism composed of many smaller organisms.... A band is a superorganism, so is the universe. For the last few years I have been creating music from the source sounds of the cosmos and now the body. These sounds are noise — harsh, strange — and it is only after dancing with their essence face to face that music can be created."

Usage examples of "superorganism".

Crack-up Swelled by emergifig brood and new arrivals, the hive had become too crowded, even for bees, and now in the superorganism, the colony, a decision was made and transmitted by mass communication.