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The thermal environment as a moderator of social evolution


Moss, JB and While, GM, The thermal environment as a moderator of social evolution, Biological Reviews pp. 1-21. ISSN 1464-7931 (2021) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2021 Cambridge Philosophical Society

DOI: doi:10.1111/brv.12784


Animal sociality plays a crucial organisational role in evolution. As a result, understanding the factors that promote the emergence, maintenance, and diversification of animal societies is of great interest to biologists. Climate is among the foremost ecological factors implicated in evolutionary transitions in social organisation, but we are only beginning to unravel the possible mechanisms and specific climatic variables that underlie these associations. Ambient temperature is a key abiotic factor shaping the spatio-temporal distribution of individuals and has a particularly strong influence on behaviour. Whether such effects play a broader role in social evolution remains to be seen. In this review, we develop a conceptual framework for understanding how thermal effects integrate into pathways that mediate the opportunities, nature, and context of social interactions. We then implement this framework to discuss the capacity for temperature to initiate organisational changes across three broad categories of social evolution: group formation, group maintenance, and group elaboration. For each category, we focus on pivotal traits likely to have underpinned key social transitions and explore the potential for temperature to affect changes in these traits by leveraging empirical examples from the literature on thermal and behavioural ecology. Finally, we discuss research directions that should be prioritised to understand the potentially constructive and/or destructive effects of future warming on the origins, maintenance, and diversification of animal societies.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:temperature, behavioural plasticity, social interactions, thermal environment, contemporary evolution, social organisation, mechanisms, physiological pathways, spatiotemporal distributions, encounter rates
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Evolutionary ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Moss, JB (Dr Jeanette Moss)
UTAS Author:While, GM (Dr Geoff While)
ID Code:145598
Year Published:2021
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP180102615)
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2021-07-28
Last Modified:2021-09-02

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