Special Special Features

Special Features (SFs) are collections of papers on a specific research theme. For example, here at Journal of Animal Ecology we have had recent SFs on movement ecology and metabolic currencies and constraints, as well as a cross-journal British Ecological Society SF on demography. Recently, the senior editors of JAE met to discuss the role of SFs in our journal and how we could shake things up a little.

One of the key roles of our SFs is that they highlight important areas in animal ecology that are emerging and/or undergoing rapid development, and we want to continue to support this role. But previous SFs have nearly always been the brain-child of a small team of authors, which has the benefit that these people often form a coherent group of experts in a particular area. The down-side, however, is that the contributors are necessarily a restricted pool of (often like-minded) individuals who share a common view of that particular topic.

We feel that there is a need to open up the process to other individuals who perhaps take a different, or even contrary, viewpoint. To this end, we have decided to trial ‘open call’ Special Features in which we invite potential authors from across emerging fields to contribute. Of course, this is not a new concept, and it appears to work successfully at other journals that have tried it, but it is new to us and we are keen to see how it works out. This is not to say that we will not continue to be receptive to fully-formed teams of authors who wish to suggest potential SF topics, but we do feel that this new approach could yield something different and exciting for our journal.

The first of these open calls is in the area of “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, and even human, health.

So, here, we launch an open call for papers on animal host–microbe interactions for publication in a Special Feature in 2017. Interested authors should submit their manuscripts  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. The deadline for submitting manuscripts is 20th December 2016, with an expected issue publication date of July 2017. Of course, as usual, accepted papers will be published online as soon as they are ready in Early View.

For further information about the new BES Special Interest Group in Microbial Ecology, and the exiting new initiatives they have planned, see here.

Ken Wilson

Executive Editor,
Journal of Animal Ecology

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