Research Topic

Social Invertebrates as Models for Non-Kin Cooperation

About this Research Topic

In this Research Topic, we will explore the general question of why patterns that range from collective action to cooperation may evolve among non-kin, and how the various potential drivers of these behaviors intersect with the diversity of non-kin social systems in invertebrates.

We suggest that non-kin associations, in invertebrates or otherwise, may often result in response to an ecological need to form groups requiring more members than available relatives either because (a) large groups need to be assembled quickly (e.g., tree killing bark beetles) or (b) harsh ecological or demographic conditions result in the production or survival of too few relatives. Non-kin groups may also form to (c) avoid competition with close kin, when help is needed in the short term, but resources are limited in the long term (e.g., pleometrotic ants); or (d) when mixing with non-kin is unavoidable due to limited space or high densities, making tolerance and cooperation preferable over intolerance and conflict (e.g., migratory locusts, carpenter bees). We propose that cases a, b, and d may be more likely to lead to cooperation when the interests of the collective are relatively well aligned with those of the individual.

Against the backdrop of these potential drivers, this collection will explore the diversity of associations formed by invertebrates, including various insect orders, spiders, and others. This Research Topic will consider how groups assemble, their age and sex composition, and the duration, timing, and form of cooperation. Possibilities include the assembly of groups of random relatedness (e.g., tree killing bark beetles); family groups that get diluted by non-kin over time (e.g., social caterpillars); or groups that start with, or end up with, lower than random kinship from the outset (e.g., carpenter bees). Collective and/or cooperative interactions may characterize a subset of life cycle stages or last the entire life cycle of individuals, in some cases involving the formation of relatively permanent groups with fluid membership. The various articles in this issue will focus on how these circumstances apply to different species within or across taxa and how they intersect with the ultimate drivers of their social systems. This collection will provide a unique perspective on how non-kin collective and/or cooperative interactions are not only important and widespread, but also obey common principles that apply across the tree of life and levels of organization.

This Research Topic will bring together researchers to discuss the proximate and ultimate factors underlying non-kin associations. Manuscripts can be presented as theory, reviews, perspectives and/or empirical studies.
In addition to considering the diversity of invertebrate systems, we encourage submissions that:

• explore aggregations at other levels of organization and mechanisms such as social facilitation
• provide comparisons among and within species
• represent collaborative efforts about similar taxa or merge taxa due to a common driver
• draw parallels with vertebrate systems


Keywords: cooperation, invertebrates, non-kin, group formation, social evolution


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.

In this Research Topic, we will explore the general question of why patterns that range from collective action to cooperation may evolve among non-kin, and how the various potential drivers of these behaviors intersect with the diversity of non-kin social systems in invertebrates.

We suggest that non-kin associations, in invertebrates or otherwise, may often result in response to an ecological need to form groups requiring more members than available relatives either because (a) large groups need to be assembled quickly (e.g., tree killing bark beetles) or (b) harsh ecological or demographic conditions result in the production or survival of too few relatives. Non-kin groups may also form to (c) avoid competition with close kin, when help is needed in the short term, but resources are limited in the long term (e.g., pleometrotic ants); or (d) when mixing with non-kin is unavoidable due to limited space or high densities, making tolerance and cooperation preferable over intolerance and conflict (e.g., migratory locusts, carpenter bees). We propose that cases a, b, and d may be more likely to lead to cooperation when the interests of the collective are relatively well aligned with those of the individual.

Against the backdrop of these potential drivers, this collection will explore the diversity of associations formed by invertebrates, including various insect orders, spiders, and others. This Research Topic will consider how groups assemble, their age and sex composition, and the duration, timing, and form of cooperation. Possibilities include the assembly of groups of random relatedness (e.g., tree killing bark beetles); family groups that get diluted by non-kin over time (e.g., social caterpillars); or groups that start with, or end up with, lower than random kinship from the outset (e.g., carpenter bees). Collective and/or cooperative interactions may characterize a subset of life cycle stages or last the entire life cycle of individuals, in some cases involving the formation of relatively permanent groups with fluid membership. The various articles in this issue will focus on how these circumstances apply to different species within or across taxa and how they intersect with the ultimate drivers of their social systems. This collection will provide a unique perspective on how non-kin collective and/or cooperative interactions are not only important and widespread, but also obey common principles that apply across the tree of life and levels of organization.

This Research Topic will bring together researchers to discuss the proximate and ultimate factors underlying non-kin associations. Manuscripts can be presented as theory, reviews, perspectives and/or empirical studies.
In addition to considering the diversity of invertebrate systems, we encourage submissions that:

• explore aggregations at other levels of organization and mechanisms such as social facilitation
• provide comparisons among and within species
• represent collaborative efforts about similar taxa or merge taxa due to a common driver
• draw parallels with vertebrate systems


Keywords: cooperation, invertebrates, non-kin, group formation, social evolution


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

01 February 2021 Abstract
01 June 2021 Manuscript

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

01 February 2021 Abstract
01 June 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

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

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