Research Topic

Sociality in the Marine Environment

About this Research Topic

What does it mean to be social in the marine environment? While pioneering research on social behavior in marine species has helped to define our understanding of the importance of sociality in animal ecology and evolution, progress in marine systems has been constrained in comparison to terrestrial or freshwater species due to the logistical challenges of studying marine species. How social associations structure marine animal populations is often unclear but new technologies such as high-resolution acoustic tracking, as well as novel extensions of social network analysis approaches are beginning to enable the exploration of sociality in fully marine species. It is not inconceivable that the drivers and mechanisms that underpin social behavior in the marine environment are in some ways rather different to their equivalent on land. This Research Topic is aimed at attracting the latest, cutting edge research attempting to shed light on this question, either through the use of novel technologies or through extensive data sets of visual observation and monitoring (e.g. long-term Photo ID), as well as new methods and analyses.

The most significant hurdle to overcome in trying to understand social behavior in the marine environment is logistics – how best to record, store and retrieve data on the associations and interactions of wide-ranging, underwater animals. Two ways to tackle this challenge are to find study systems that can be reliably observed over relevant spatial and temporal scales (e.g. long-term monitoring of cetaceans resident in coastal waters), or to deploy biologging technologies that are capable of recording the fine-scale position of many individuals simultaneously. There are burgeoning examples of studies that have defined the social network structure of sharks, for example, based on regular diver observations or machine learning applied to acoustic tracking data. With a growing number of researchers beginning to work in this field, this Research Topic will bring these individuals and research groups together to showcase the very latest in state-of-the-art technological and analytical approaches to reveal sociality in the marine environment.

It is our aim that this Research Topic will attract broad and diverse submissions from a host of researchers studying a variety of taxa from marine mammals, elasmobranchs and teleost fishes to invertebrates tracked with electronic tags. The Topic will also attempt to tackle some of the logistical/methodological barriers to progress and offer new ways as to how these might be overcome, for example how to retrieve tracking data from individuals even if peer-to-peer communication becomes more viable. Therefore the scope of submissions should fall into the following broad categories:

• Exciting new technological, methodological or analytic advances for measuring social behavior /structure in the marine environment
• Empirical studies from new taxa, previously unrecognized as being social
• Studies that involve manipulations that attempt to reveal the underlying mechanisms behind sociality
• Reviews of particular taxonomic groups where sociality has been explored more broadly (e.g. cetaceans)


The Topic Editors would like to acknowledge the following for providing the cover images:
Ewa Krzyszczyk, Shark Bay Dolphin Research Project (top left)
David Villegas-Ríos (top right)
Johann Mourier (bottom left)
Culum Brown (bottom right)


Keywords: Behavioural inference, Network analysis, Photo identification, Social structure, Telemetry


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

What does it mean to be social in the marine environment? While pioneering research on social behavior in marine species has helped to define our understanding of the importance of sociality in animal ecology and evolution, progress in marine systems has been constrained in comparison to terrestrial or freshwater species due to the logistical challenges of studying marine species. How social associations structure marine animal populations is often unclear but new technologies such as high-resolution acoustic tracking, as well as novel extensions of social network analysis approaches are beginning to enable the exploration of sociality in fully marine species. It is not inconceivable that the drivers and mechanisms that underpin social behavior in the marine environment are in some ways rather different to their equivalent on land. This Research Topic is aimed at attracting the latest, cutting edge research attempting to shed light on this question, either through the use of novel technologies or through extensive data sets of visual observation and monitoring (e.g. long-term Photo ID), as well as new methods and analyses.

The most significant hurdle to overcome in trying to understand social behavior in the marine environment is logistics – how best to record, store and retrieve data on the associations and interactions of wide-ranging, underwater animals. Two ways to tackle this challenge are to find study systems that can be reliably observed over relevant spatial and temporal scales (e.g. long-term monitoring of cetaceans resident in coastal waters), or to deploy biologging technologies that are capable of recording the fine-scale position of many individuals simultaneously. There are burgeoning examples of studies that have defined the social network structure of sharks, for example, based on regular diver observations or machine learning applied to acoustic tracking data. With a growing number of researchers beginning to work in this field, this Research Topic will bring these individuals and research groups together to showcase the very latest in state-of-the-art technological and analytical approaches to reveal sociality in the marine environment.

It is our aim that this Research Topic will attract broad and diverse submissions from a host of researchers studying a variety of taxa from marine mammals, elasmobranchs and teleost fishes to invertebrates tracked with electronic tags. The Topic will also attempt to tackle some of the logistical/methodological barriers to progress and offer new ways as to how these might be overcome, for example how to retrieve tracking data from individuals even if peer-to-peer communication becomes more viable. Therefore the scope of submissions should fall into the following broad categories:

• Exciting new technological, methodological or analytic advances for measuring social behavior /structure in the marine environment
• Empirical studies from new taxa, previously unrecognized as being social
• Studies that involve manipulations that attempt to reveal the underlying mechanisms behind sociality
• Reviews of particular taxonomic groups where sociality has been explored more broadly (e.g. cetaceans)


The Topic Editors would like to acknowledge the following for providing the cover images:
Ewa Krzyszczyk, Shark Bay Dolphin Research Project (top left)
David Villegas-Ríos (top right)
Johann Mourier (bottom left)
Culum Brown (bottom right)


Keywords: Behavioural inference, Network analysis, Photo identification, Social structure, Telemetry


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

08 February 2021 Manuscript
08 March 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

08 February 2021 Manuscript
08 March 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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