A superorganism is a collection or community of highly interdependent life forms which behaves as if it were a single organism of a higher order.


Examples of individuals forming part of a close-knit collective are found throughout the living world. Colonies of ants and other social insects are referred to as superorganisms. The superorganism is capable of things, and of showing levels of intelligence (see hive-intelligence), that are far beyond any of its individual members. The same is true of the human brain and body, which are made of interconnected living cells, none of which can survive or function on its own.


Recent research has also shown that some animals have minds that aren't confined to their heads. Spiders, for instance, can effectively offload or outsource cognitive tasks to their webs. The web serves not only as part of their senses but also as an extension of their memory and processing ability.


In other animals, information processing is dispersed around the body. The brain of the octopus, for example, accounts for only a small part of the central nervous system. Two thirds of the creature's 500 million neurons are in its arms, so that each arm can think for itself when performing tasks like capturing food and delivering it to the mouth.


According to the Gaia hypothesis, the entire planet functions as if it were a single living system. Its organic and inorganic components interact in such a way that disturbances to any part of the system are counterbalanced by changes elsewhere so that the long-term stability of the biosphere is maintained.