Social Interaction in Animals: Linking Experimental Approach and Social Network Analysis
Understanding the link between individual behaviour and population organization and functioning has long been central to ecology and evolutionary biology. Behaviour is a response to intrinsic and extrinsic factors including individual state, ecological factors or social interactions. Within a group, each individual can be seen as part of a network of social interactions varying in strength, type and dynamic. The structure of this network can deeply impact the ecology and evolution of individuals, populations and species. Within a group social interactions can take many forms and may significantly affect an individual’s fitness. These interactions may result in complex systems at the group-level, such as in the case of collective decisions (to migrate, to build nest or to forage). Among them, social transmission of information has been studied mostly in vertebrates: fish, birds and mammals including humans. In insects, social learning has been unambiguously demonstrated in social Hymenoptera but this probably reflects limited research effort and recent evidence show that even non-eusocial insects such as Drosophila, cockroaches and crickets can copy the behaviour of others. Compared to individual learning, which requires a trial and error period every generation, social learning can potentially result in the stable transmission of behaviours across generations, leading to cultural traditions in some species. The study of the processes which may facilitate or prevent this transmission and the analyses of the relationship between social network structure and efficiency of social transmission became these recent years an emerging and promising field of research. The goal of this research topic is to present the genetic and socio-environmental factors affecting social interaction and information or pathogen transmission with the integration of experimental approaches, social network analyses and modelling. Importantly, we aim to understand whether a relationship between social network structures and dynamics can reflect the efficiency of social transmission, i.e. can we use social network analysis to predict the social transmission of information or of pathogen, collective decision-making and ultimately the evolutionary trajectory of a group?