What drives the evolution of sociality in animals? Many robust studies in terrestrial organisms have pointed toward various kinship-based, ecological and life-history traits or phylogenetic constraint which have played a role in the evolution of sociality. These traits are not mutually exclusive and the exact combination of traits is likely taxon-specific. Phylogenetic comparative analyses have been instrumental in identifying social lineages and comparing various traits with non-social lineages to give broad evolutionary perspectives on the development of sociality. Few studies have attempted this approach in marine vertebrate systems. Social marine fishes are particularly interesting because many have a pelagic larval phase and non-conventional life-history strategies (e.g. bi-directional sex-change) not often observed in terrestrial animals. Such strategies provide novel insights into terrestrially-derived theories of social evolution. Here, we assess the strength of the phylogenetic signal of sociality in the Gobiodon genus with Pagel's lambda and Blomberg's K parameters. We found some evidence of a phylogenetic signal of sociality, but factors other than phylogenetic constraint also have a strong influence on the extant social state of each species. We then use phylogenetic generalized least squares analyses to examine several ecological and life-history traits that may have influenced the evolution of sociality in the genus. We found an interaction of habitat size and fish length was the strongest predictor of sociality. Sociality in larger species was more dependent on coral size than in smaller species, but smaller species were more social overall, regardless of coral size. Finally, we comment on findings regarding the validity of the species G. spilophthalmus which arose during the course of our research. These findings in a group of marine fishes add a unique perspective on the evolution of sociality to the excellent terrestrial work conducted in this field.
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