The evolutionary and ecological consequences of animal social networks: emerging issues

Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 Jun;29(6):326-35. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.04.002. Epub 2014 Apr 30.


The first generation of research on animal social networks was primarily aimed at introducing the concept of social networks to the fields of animal behaviour and behavioural ecology. More recently, a diverse body of evidence has shown that social fine structure matters on a broader scale than initially expected, affecting many key ecological and evolutionary processes. Here, we review this development. We discuss the effects of social network structure on evolutionary dynamics (genetic drift, fixation probabilities, and frequency-dependent selection) and social evolution (cooperation and between-individual behavioural differences). We discuss how social network structure can affect important coevolutionary processes (host-pathogen interactions and mutualisms) and population stability. We also discuss the potentially important, but poorly studied, role of social network structure on dispersal and invasion. Throughout, we highlight important areas for future research.

Keywords: coevolution; dispersal; evolutionary dynamics; invasion; population stability; social evolution; social networks; social structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Population Dynamics
  • Social Behavior*
  • Symbiosis