Special Features

Journal of Animal Ecology welcomes Special Feature proposals on themes that fall within the Aims & Scope of the journal. Topics must be of high current interest and have relevance to animal ecology as a whole. Please contact the Editorial Office for details on how to submit a Special Feature proposal.

Open Call for Papers

Special Feature on animal host–microbe interactions

With the recent advent of modern molecular approaches, including next-generation sequencing, it has become possible to characterise the rich resident and transitory microbial communities living within animal hosts, including the host gut microbiome, covert pathogens and endo-symbionts. The recent explosion of this field over the last decade is starting to facilitate a greater understanding of the functional role and consequences of variation in animal host microbiota, and the ecological and evolutionary interactions between the host, its resident microbiota and factors such as disease susceptibility, nutritional ecology, life-history strategies, social networks and animal behaviour. The understanding of host–microbe interactions also has applied relevance for a range of fields, including crop pest control, wildlife conservation and animal health.

Here, we launch a call for papers on animal host–microbe interactions for publication in a Special Feature in 2017. Manuscripts should be submitted in the usual way through the Journal of Animal Ecology website, clearly stating in the cover letter accompanying the submission that you wish to be considered for publication as part of this Special Feature. Pre-submission enquiries are not necessary, but any questions can be directed to: admin@journalofanimalecology.org

Submission deadline: EXTENDED to 20th January 2017

Expected issue publication date: July 2017. Accepted papers will be published online in Earlyview.

British Ecological Society Cross Journal Special Feature: Demography Beyond the Population

Edited by Alden Griffith, Rob Salguero- Gómez, Jessica Metcalf, Cory Merow, Sean McMahon and Dylan Childs

Volume 85, Issue 2

This exciting collaborative and interdisciplinary special feature integrates novel lines of research in the vast field of demography that directly interact with other ecological and evolutionary disciplines.

The goal of the special feature is to highlight the interdisciplinary potential of demography and is further emphasised by the fact that the 21 articles are spread across all six journals of the British Ecological Society. The goal of the Special Feature is to highlight to both demographers and non-demographers alike that there is much to be gained by linking demography to other disciplines and scales in ecology and evolution.

The Special Feature is based on a British Ecological Society symposium that was held in March 2015 and is the first time all six BES journals have collaborated to produce a joint special feature.

Journal of Animal Ecology has published 4 papers in the Special Feature:

  • Disentangling correlated explanatory variables In this paper Brooks et al. discus how the the strength of size as a proxy for past environments varies among vital rates. They quantified this using a novel method for understanding nonlinear relationships between responses and multicollinear predictors. This non-mechanistic model has the strength of being flexible enough to apply in data-limited situations and will be useful for identifying patterns and generating hypotheses.

  • The evolution of labile traits in sex- and age-structured populations Childs et al. present a data-driven framework that has the potential to facilitate greater insight into the nature of selection and its consequences in settings where focal traits vary over the lifetime through ontogeny, behavioural adaptation and phenotypic plasticity, as well as providing a potential bridge between theoretical and empirical studies of labile trait variation.

  • Opportunities and challenges of Integral Projection Models for modelling host–parasite dynamics Epidemiological dynamics are shaped by and may in turn shape host demography. Here, Metcalf et al. extend statistically derived population models that explicitly account for variance in individual trajectories commonly used for plant and animal demography (Integral Projection Models) to capture the process of infection and propagate it across scales.

  • Des différences, pourquoi? Transmission, maintenance and effects of phenotypic variance In this paper Plard et al. discuss how the influence of phenotypic variation on population dynamics is much higher in short-lived than in long-lived life-histories.

For further reading on take a look at the blog post by Senior Editor Jean-Michel Gaillard Demography beyond the population: Integrated demography comes of age

Stuck in motion? Reconnecting questions and tools in movement ecology

Metabolism Special Feature

Edited by Bram Van Moorter, Manuela Panzacchi, Francesca Cagnacci and Mark S. Boyce

Volume 85, Issue 1

Movements have long been identified as the glue linking individual behaviour to populations (Turchin 1998) and, ultimately, to species’ conservation and management. However, the field of movement ecology developed only recently, thanks to the rapidly increasing availability of both satellite tracking data of animal locations and of high-resolution environmental data layers. This led to a "perfect storm of opportunities" (Cagnacci et al. 2010) and to the rapid proliferation of a vast diversity of sophisticated analytical tools. However, for the classical schooled ecologists it has become increasingly challenging to find the most appropriate tool to answer a specific research question, and the current discourse in movement ecology is shifting in focus from the actual ecological questions to the analytical techniques to answer them. In conclusion, despite the great leap in the amount of information available, the way such information is used for ecology, management and conservation often falls short of its promises.

The motivation for this Special Feature is to refocus the discussions on key ecological questions in movement ecology and to provide guidelines for choosing the most appropriate analytical tools to answer them. The collection of 6 papers is the result of three years work starting from the summer of 2012, when we held a workshop in Evenstad, Norway, gathering lead scientists in movement ecology from Europe, America and Australia. The workshop was paralleled by a matching Summer School (International Research school for Applied Ecology, www.irsea.no), targeted at a broader audience. The Special Feature covers questions spanning from behavioral ecology to population dynamics, provides an overview of the state-of-the-art tools available to answer them, and proposes both theoretical and analytical advances to link individual movements to different kinds of spatially structured processes. In particular, GPS data are used to infer animal behavior (Guraire et al), migratory patterns (Cagnacci et al), identify the continuum between movement corridors and barriers (Panzacchi et al), quantify barrier permeability and proximity avoidance (Beyer et al), establish the link between individual movements, home range and habitat selection (Van Moorter et al), and scale up from habitat selection to population dynamics (Boyce et al) – as detailed in Borger et al. Online appendices allow the readers to access the codes and sample dataset needed to perform the analyses.

Read the Virtual Issue on Movement Ecology compiled to complement this Special Feature.


  • Turchin, P., 1998. Quantitative analysis of movement: measuring and modeling population redistribution in animals and plants. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates.
  • Cagnacci, F., Boitani, L., Powell, R.A. and Boyce, M.S., 2010. Animal ecology meets GPS-based radiotelemetry: a perfect storm of opportunities and challenges. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365(1550), pp.2157-2162.

Metabolic constraints and currencies in animal ecology

Metabolism Special Feature

Edited by Murray Humphries & Kevin McCann

Volume 83, Issue 1

Classic and recent work uses metabolism to frame important ecological problems (e.g., population density patterns, flux of materials, secondary production, interaction strength in food webs, range shifts in response to climate change). Most recent attention related to the metabolic unification of ecology has focused on the metabolic theory of ecology (MTE), summarized by Brown et al. However, despite the research attention generated by MTE, there has not been an attempted synthesis of the many and diverse ecological implications of metabolism.

The intent behind this Special Feature is to consider metabolic ecology in all its diversity. In particular, how are various metabolic and energetic principles being incorporated into recent theory focused at various scales of organization within animal ecology, including but not limited to the MTE? What are the key metabolic constraints and currencies used to model the behavioural decisions of individual animals, the trophic interactions of consumers and resources, and the interaction strengths and nutrient cycles of whole food webs? How easily can all of these currencies and constraints be related to each other? Accordingly, these invited contributions from researchers active across the ecological hierarchy, with research foci ranging from individual behaviour to whole ecosystems, take a broad-brush look at how metabolism functions as a currency and a constraint within different research areas.

Location-only and Use-availability Data. Analysis Methods Converge

Location-Only Special Feature

Edited by Lyman McDonald, Bryan Manly, Falk Huettmann and Wayne Thogmartin

Volume 82, Issue 6

Ecologists have long been interested in understanding how animals select their resources (food and habitat) because it provides essential information about the nature of animals and how they meet their requirements for survival; identifying these resources and their availability is thus critical in efforts to preserve endangered species and manage exploited populations. In the late 1980s, specialized methods know as resource selection functions were developed to characterize habitat use, which were estimated by comparing covariates at a discrete set of “used” locations to those from an “available” set of locations – relying on so-called ‘use-availability’ data. A related topic has recently emerged in the exciting area of species distribution modelling, which has focused on methods for analysing presence-only data, typically consisting of digitized opportunistic sightings or museum records of where a species occurs, over a large geographic scale. By coupling these data with maps of environmental variables, it is possible to model the spatial distribution of a species using generalizations of logistic regression or modern methods of classification. As technological and data storage advances have increased the quantity of these different types of data on the location and habitat preferences of species, understanding analysis methods is becoming ever more important.

This Special Feature arose from a session on a topic that took place during The Wildlife Society meeting in Kona, Hawaii, from 5 to 10 November, 2011. The purpose of that session was to compare methods for predictive modelling of species geographical distributions and the modelling of habitat (resource) selection by animals. The predictive modelling of species geographical distributions and the modelling of habitat selection based on the environmental conditions at sites where animals are known to occur, are essentially the same problem and this is exemplified by the papers in this Special Feature. The collection of papers is intended to present the state of the methodological art in these subject areas, with particular attention paid to contrasting the advantages and disadvantages of alternative methods of analysis for data.