Prospects for research in social behaviour: Systems biology meets behaviour

Allen J. Moore, Tamás Székely, Jan Komdeur

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

6 Citations (SciVal)


Overview The study of social behaviour, often called sociobiology, is entering a new phase. A growing focus on mechanisms has enriched the older, evolutionary, perspective of sociobiology. The chapters in this book provide an overview of some of the most influential examples of research adopting the multifaceted approaches used to understand social evolution. There are top-down examinations of the way selection influences behaviour and, therefore, its neural and genetic structure, and bottom-up examinations of the genetic, hormonal or neurobiological substrates of behaviour. We therefore have a detailed understanding of the social, ecological, physiological, neurological, hormonal and genetic factors leading to complex social behaviour, but little integration. Picking apart the components and influences on behaviour is a reductionist approach, and although this has provided considerable insights we argue that it is now time for a synthetic perspective. We argue that a complementary perspective that unifies the particulate knowledge we have gained is now possible, and in keeping with current fashion we label this a systems biology approach to studying behavioural complexity. In reality, this is not new but a re-emphasis of the original synthetic view of sociobiology. Systems biology is simply a focus on interactions among components, and it works towards developing a predictive framework for resulting emergent properties of a system. Systems biology depends on a detailed understanding of the component parts to a system, and we believe this will be increasingly available for social behaviour, given the availability of new and less expensive approaches to gaining mechanistic information.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Behaviour
Subtitle of host publicationGenes, Ecology and Evolution
EditorsTamas Szekely, Allan J. Moore, Jan Komdeur
PublisherCambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780511781360
ISBN (Print)9780521883177
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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