An evolutionary framework for studying mechanisms of social behavior

Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 Oct;29(10):581-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.07.008. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


Social interactions are central to most animals and have a fundamental impact upon the phenotype of an individual. Social behavior (social interactions among conspecifics) represents a central challenge to the integration of the functional and mechanistic bases of complex behavior. Traditionally, studies of proximate and ultimate elements of social behavior have been conducted by distinct groups of researchers, with little communication across perceived disciplinary boundaries. However, recent technological advances, coupled with increased recognition of the substantial variation in mechanisms underlying social interactions, should compel investigators from divergent disciplines to pursue more integrative analyses of social behavior. We propose an integrative conceptual framework intended to guide researchers towards a comprehensive understanding of the evolution and maintenance of mechanisms governing variation in sociality.

Keywords: complex sociality; evolution; genomics; group-living; hormones; neural circuits; social behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ecological and Environmental Phenomena*
  • Genetic Phenomena*
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*