The evolutionary ecology of nests: a cross-taxon approach

Mark C. Mainwaring, Mary Caswell Stoddard, Iain Barber, D. Charles Deeming, Mark E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nests, including the enormous structures housing colonies of eusocial insects and the elaborately built nests of some fishes, have long fascinated scientists, yet our understanding of the evolutionary ecology of nests has lagged behind our understanding of subsequent reproductive stages. There has, however, been a burgeoning amount of interest in nests over the past decade, and this special issue on 'The evolutionary ecology of nests: a cross-taxon approach' outlines our understanding of the form and function of nests in diverse animal lineages. Papers in 'The function of nests: mechanisms and adaptive benefits' theme examine the various functions of nests, while papers in 'The evolution of nest characteristics' theme examine the evolution of nesting behaviours. Meanwhile, papers in the 'Large communal nests in harsh environments' theme examine how the enormous structures constructed by eusocial insects and social birds enable them to inhabit harsh arid environments, whereas papers in the 'Nests in the Anthropocene' theme examine how adaptive shifts in nest architecture allow animals to adapt to breed in the age of accelerating global human impacts. Finally, the synthesis outlines how the mixture of ideas and approaches from researchers studying different taxa will advance our understanding of this exciting field of research. This article is part of the theme issue 'The evolutionary ecology of nests: a cross-taxon approach'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220136
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1884
StatePublished - Aug 28 2023


  • architecture
  • behaviour
  • evolution
  • extended phenotypes
  • nest construction
  • reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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