Instructions for Authors





The American Naturalist is a monthly journal devoted to furthering the objectives of the American Society of Naturalists (ASN):


to advance our understanding of evolution, ecology, behavior, and other broad biological disciplines toward the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.


Thus, the journal welcomes manuscripts that develop new conceptual syntheses, pose new and significant problems, introduce novel subjects to the readership, or change the way people think about a topic that will be of interest to the broad readership of the American Naturalist. When submitting, please explain in the Comments field how your manuscript fits these goals.


The American Naturalist's policy is that papers should be as long as they need to be to make their case well, but the preference is for manuscripts that are approximately 21 manuscript pages or fewer of text, not including the literature cited, and have no more than six tables and/or figures. Additional material can appear in the expanded online edition. Such material can include appendixes, tables, and figures as well as electronic enhancements such as video, sound, and data files (see details below). Symposium articles and ASN Addresses are by invitation only. Because each article must stand on its own merits, we do not accept paired articles.


Notes communicate concise points, using either data or theory. However, like Articles, they present insights of broad general significance and interest. Notes are no more than 12 manuscript pages of text (not including the literature cited) and have no more than three figures and/or tables in print. Notes must have abstracts of no more than 150 words.

Syntheses and Perspectives

Writing a paper for this section is an opportunity to analyze a significant body of work in biological sciences, to consolidate it in a way that derives new insights, and to suggest future research directions to a broad readership. These articles should present and summarize recent research, but they are not traditional reviews. Rather, these articles should present a new, forward-looking, and synthetic perspective of a focal research area or question. While these papers are not editorials intended primarily to promote specific theories, methods, or interpretations, thoughtful and analytical perspectives are welcome. Advocacy is acceptable as long as alternative theories or interpretations are presented in a thorough and balanced way. Before writing a piece intended for the Syntheses and Perspectives section, potential authors are requested to contact the editors via the journal office with a proposal for the article, including a detailed outline and a description of its novel goals and perspective. Authors of successful proposals will be invited to submit their manuscript, which will then proceed as other submissions to the journal, with normal peer review, taking into account the specific aims of this section. Contributions should be no longer than a normal article in the journal. It is essential that proposed Syntheses and Perspectives be of broad interest to the conceptually oriented audience of the American Naturalist, which represents a cross-section of ecology, evolution, and behavior. Interested authors are strongly encouraged to read recently published Syntheses to get a sense of how some authors have successfully achieved the stated goals.

Natural History Miscellany

The American Naturalist published a section called "Natural History Miscellany" from 1867 to 1872. Short observations of behavior and ecology (what often is referred to as "natural history") remained a mainstay of the journal for many decades. Natural History Miscellany submissions should be short contributions (similar to a Note in length) that enlighten our understanding of the natural history of a species in important ways and, because of their novelty, will be appreciated broadly. They should also have significance beyond the biology of the species involved by their relevance to important conceptual issues or to understanding the dimensions of biological diversity. Authors are encouraged to take advantage of color printing ($350 a page for ASN members, $400 a page for nonmembers) and the capabilities of online publication to illustrate manuscripts with online photographs, sound files, videos, and other electronic media.


Comments provide criticisms, corrections, or new analyses of articles published in the American Naturalist. They should be brief and the tone should be professional. The authors should identify the article or group of articles being addressed on the cover page and in the author notes at submission. The author(s) of the critiqued article will be contacted and asked to respond. Comments should be submitted with brief abstracts (no more than 100 words). Replies do not have abstracts and should also be brief and professional.

All accepted manuscripts (i.e., all of the types listed above plus the invited ASN symposia and the ASN Addresses) have been reviewed by external expert reviewers as well as members of the editorial board.


The American Naturalist publishes several papers each month as e-articles. These papers provide affordable typeset color art for the authors. They are, in all other respects, identical to papers published in print: they appear in the print and online table of contents (with page numbers beginning with an "E," e.g., pp. E7-E13), they are indexed by Medline and the other abstracting services that index the journal, and they can be downloaded as a typeset PDF file, the appearance of which is indistinguishable from PDFs of printed papers.



Authors who wish to make corrections to their own published material should e-mail the journal office.


Author's Rights and Self-Archiving

For a full description of authors' rights and permissions, please see the Guidelines

Authors whose research was funded in whole or in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Wellcome Trust, or the Medical Research Council (MRC UK) may deposit the accepted manuscript with PubMed Central or PubMed Central UK, with release to the public twelve (12) months after publication for NIH-funded research or six (6) months after publication for Wellcome Trust-funded and Medical Research Council-funded research. Only the final accepted manuscript may be submitted; authors may not submit proofs or the published article to PubMed Central or PubMed Central UK.

Authors do not need to request permission to reuse their articles, for instance, in their own publications, dissertations, or classrooms provided that appropriate credit is given to the journal. Authors may post a copy of their article on their personal or institutional web server, provided that the server is noncommercial and not intended for the systematic storage, retrieval, and delivery of scholarly material.  


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Supporting Data and Material

The American Naturalist requires authors to deposit the data associated with accepted papers in a public archive. For gene sequence data and phylogenetic trees, deposition in GenBank or TreeBASE, respectively, is required. There are many possible archives that may suit a particular data set, including the Dryad repository for ecological and evolutionary biology data ( All accession numbers for GenBank, TreeBASE, and Dryad must be included in accepted manuscripts before they go to Production. If the data are deposited somewhere else, please provide a link. If the data are culled from published literature, please deposit the collated data in Dryad for the convenience of your readers. Any impediments to data sharing should be brought to the attention of the editors at the time of submission so that appropriate arrangements can be worked out. For more, see the editorial on data.

When you use a data set, be sure to cite it in your article using the DataCite DOI, and be sure the citation occurs in the literature cited section of your article as well as in the text. The data citation in the Literature Cited should include the name of the database, a record locator or descriptor, an access date, the URL, and the DOI if available.

Sequence Data

DNA should be sequenced on both strands. The sequences of all PCR primers used should be clearly stated either in the text or in cited references. Variation inferred from cloned allelic sequences should consider polymerase error and in vitro recombination. All new nucleotide sequence data must be submitted to Genbank or EMBL.

Computer Programs

As part of the journal's evolving initiative to provide electronic access to important scientific resources, authors of papers that make significant use of nonproprietary computer simulation programs are encouraged to include the computer code as an online enhancement. Similarly, authors of papers that use symbolic mathematical computer calculations (via Mathematica, MatLab, Maple, or similar tools) are encouraged to include files with these calculations as electronic enhancements (see section below).

Methods Appendixes

Detailed descriptions of methods that are standard in their fields should be online-only appendixes.


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Ethical Treatment of Animals

If animals were used in the research presented in a manuscript, the authors must affirm in the cover letter that (1) all research presented in the manuscript was conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and rules set forth by their governments and institutions and (2) all necessary permits were in hand when the research was conducted. Furthermore, authors are encouraged to consult the Guidelines for the Treatment of Animals in Behavioral Research and Teaching from the Animal Behavior Society.


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Manuscript Preparation for Submission

The American Naturalist asks authors to prepare manuscripts to assist the review process. If a manuscript is accepted, the journal office will contact authors about changes in format to prepare the manuscript for production.

Manuscripts must meet the following standards before review:

  • All elements of the manuscript must be double spaced.
  • All manuscripts under review must include line numbering to assist reviewers and must have page numbers on all pages.
  • Fonts must be embedded in the PDF.
  • E-mail addresses and affiliations for every author are required during submission.


The first page of the manuscript file should be a title page that includes the title; a list of four to six keywords; and a list of all the elements of the manuscript that will appear in the expanded online edition (so reviewers will not miss essential elements). The title page should indicate whether the manuscript is an article, note, synthesis, natural history miscellany, comment, reply, or symposium (invited) article.


Double Blind Review: In an effort to minimize implicit bias, the American Naturalist now follows a form of double blind reviewing. Author names have been redacted throughout the peer review system. Author names, affiliations, and email addresses must not appear on the title page or in headers and footers. To help protect the authors' identity, acknowledgments should be removed from the manuscript file and should instead be pasted in the Comments field of the submission interface. Authors who wish to maintain a greater level of anonymity should avoid the following:


  • Spelling out their names while citing their own unpublished results
  • Using their names in the titles of supplementary files
  • Using their names on files linked to on external locations such as GitHub, figshare, personal webpages
  • Referring to previous work in the first person, as in “we have previously found” and then providing the citations to previous papers


The American Naturalist views double blind reviews as a service to the authors; authors are best suited to judge what is desirable and necessary to maintain their anonymity. Authors may opt out of double blind reviewing during submission. In that case, the title page may include author names, affiliations, and email addresses, but it must also include this statement, “The authors wish to be identified to the reviewers.”


The second page should be the one-paragraph abstract, without citations, of less than 200 words for articles, less than 150 words for notes, and less than 100 words for comments. The third page should begin the text.


Methods should not be placed at the end of the main text. For initial submissions, authors may place their figures and legends in the manuscript at the point where each figure is first mentioned for the convenience of reviewers. Manuscripts being finalized for production after acceptance should be organized in the following order: title page (with author names restored), abstract, text, acknowledgements, appendixes, literature cited, tables, figure legends, and figures.


Use a standard 12-point font on a page set up for standard size paper (to enable printing of the PDF).


LaTeX: A LaTeX template for the American Naturalist is available here.


For line numbering, LaTeX users have recommended using the lineno package (lineno.sty, available from CTAN) to add line numbering. Include
in the preamble of your TeX file, and put the following commands after the title page:



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File Format

Authors should submit papers via the Editorial Manager system at

Production criteria require files to be in Word, RTF, or LaTeX, but the review process is conducted entirely via PDF. The Editorial Manager system is designed to convert source files into PDF. Authors can also provide their own PDF files.


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Author Notes/Cover Letters

When submitting a manuscript, you will be asked the following:

  • whether the article is being considered for publication elsewhere and whether the manuscript appears on the Web (particularly in preprint archives),
  • Whether the authors wish to be identified to the reviewers by listing author names on the title page.
  • whether the authors have agreed with the data sharing policy,
  • whether the authors followed animal treatment guidelines if animals were used in the study.

In the Comments field, please explain how this manuscript fits the goals of the journal or the specific section of the journal. The American Naturalist aims to publish papers that

  • are of interest to the broad readership,
  • pose a new and significant problem or introduce a novel subject,
  • change the way people think about the topic of the manuscript, and/or
  • confirm or refute an unverified theoretical principle or a previously unsupported or weakly supported generalization.


Include any recommendations about associate editors in the Comments field. Paste the Acknowledgments paragraph into the Comments field.

Authors of revisions and resubmissions must provide a detailed response to the reviews and recommendations in a cover letter. This file can be read by the editorial board and by any reviewers assigned to the later version(s). All other submissions should use the Comments field and not upload a cover letter.


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Text Preparation

Material should, in general, conform to the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) and the Council of Science Editors Manual Scientific Style and Format.


  • Provide both scientific and common names of all organisms discussed.
  • Use either italics or underlining throughout equations and text. Do not use both in the same file.
  • Do not use italics or bold for emphasis.
  • Do not use indented lists (numbers or bullets).
  • Use the International System of Units (SI) for all measurements.


  • Define every variable and label used at its first occurrence. A table of definitions can also be helpful.
  • Fonts must be embedded in the PDF or substitutions will occur once the PDF is opened on other computers.
  • Display formulas should be done in LaTeX or in the equation editor included with Microsoft Word.
  • Check the PDF created in Editorial Manager carefully to make sure the math is formatted correctly.


  • When you use a data set, be sure to cite it in your article using the DataCite DOI, and be sure the citation occurs in the literature cited section of your article as well as in the text.
  • List in-text citations chronologically, then alphabetically for the same year.
  • Cite unpublished work as "A. B. Smith and C. D. Jones, unpublished data" or "E. F. Smith and G. H. Jones, unpublished manuscript." "In review" manuscripts should be referred to as unpublished manuscripts in text and not listed in the literature cited.
  • Spell out all journal and press names in the literature cited.
  • Follow journal reference style. For example:

    Hubbell, S. P., and R. B. Foster. 1986. Canopy gaps and the dynamics of a Neotropical forest. Pages 77-96 in M. J. Crawley, ed. Plant ecology. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford.

    Maynard Smith, J. 1966. Sympatric speciation. American Naturalist 100:637-650.


  • Provide a title for each appendix in addition to the label (e.g., "Appendix A: Model of the Negotiation Process").
  • Add the word "online" before the label (e.g., "Online Appendix A") for appendixes that will appear only in the expanded online edition and are in the same file format as the rest of the text (e.g., Word). Do not put online-only material in separate files unless it is in separate file formats. Consider combining as many online-only appendixes under one title as possible. If they appear under separate titles, there will be separate PDFs for each online-only appendix.


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Tables for manuscripts should be embedded in the file or PDF unless they are large online-only data files that must appear in formats such as tab-delineated ASCII or Excel. In Word, tables must be in the table editor.


  • Do not present the same information in both a table and a figure.
  • Table titles should be short, concise, and descriptive. All other information should be placed in a table note.
  • Table notes should appear after the table on the last page of the table.
  • Print tables are numbered consecutively in the order in which they appear in the text. All print tables must be referred to in the text. All online-only tables are appendix tables and are labeled according to the appendix they belong in (e.g., stand-alone table 1, the only online-only enhancement, is named "table A1"). If they are cited only within an appendix, then they are named for their appendix (e.g., table C2 is the second table cited in appendix C). All of the rules for tables apply to online-only tables.
  • There are no vertical or horizontal lines in the body of an American Naturalist table. There are no panels. There is no graphical representation of any kind. If a table must have a graphical aspect, then it should be renamed a figure.
  • A table has the same column headings throughout. If the column headings change, it is a new table with a new table number and a new table title.
  • Sequences should be taxonomic with family headings or alphabetical by scientific name.


For further instructions on formatting tables for production, see Manuscript Preparation - Tables.


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Figures and Images

Figures and photographs for manuscripts under review must be embedded in the  PDF before it can go out for review. If authors are not supplying their own PDF, Editorial Manager, the submission program, will combine figure and text files into a single PDF.


FONTS MUST BE EMBEDDED IN THE PDF. If fonts are not embedded, other fonts can get substituted or fonts can be eliminated altogether. When that happens math and figures in particular can become unintelligible.


  • Do not present the same information in both a table and a figure.
  • Label panels with capital letters and refer to them in text as "figure 2 A," etc.
  • Confine all the panels of the same figure to the same page.
  • All figures must be referred to in the text. Number all print figures cited in the text consecutively. If a figure is cited only in an appendix, then the figure is labeled accordingly (e.g., a figure cited only in appendix B would be labeled "figure B1").
  • Color art, reproduced with inks, must be printed in four colors (CMYK). Online figures, reproduced with light, appear in three colors (RGB). There can be a color shift as much as 15% between the two formats. Authors should check their graphics in the correct mode before finalizing the color scheme. In particular, the bright blue in RGB becomes a dull blue in CMYK. 


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Electronic Enhancements

The online edition of articles will include all elements of the print edition. The online edition may also be expanded to include additional appendixes, tables, figures, and electronic enhancements. No changes to text, figures, or enhancement files will be made after the manuscript is published electronically.


If possible, online material should be included in the same file as the main text (with the word "online" before the element: e.g., "online appendix A"). In addition to the appendixes, figures, and tables discussed above, enhancements may be material that cannot be typeset:

Short audio files—in WAV, MP3, or AIFF format

Video files—in MPEG or Quicktime format under three minutes (no streaming video). Provide a screenshot plus a caption for printing and linking to videos

Color art—art that is printed in black and white or halftones can appear as color in the expanded online edition [full-text edition]. Color art that appears only in the online edition should be in RGB mode.

Computer simulation programs or symbolic mathematical computer calculations (via Mathematica, MatLab, Maple, or similar tools)

Tar and zip files—Compressed formats should be e-mailed directly to the journal office because the web system unzips them. Please mention them prominently on the title page of the manuscript.

Other enhancement formats can be handled on a case-by-case basis. All online enhancements must have the approval of the editor.


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Publication Charges

Authors are asked to help defray the costs of publication to keep subscription and membership costs as low as possible. An author with an outstanding debt from a previous paper cannot publish another until the original debt is settled.


In addition, ASN members get a variety of discounts.

Immediate Open Access

ASN Student Member:
ASN Student or Postdoc Member who is the sole author: Free for either e-articles or print
ASN Regular Member: $1,000
Nonmember from a subscribing institution: $1,500
Nonmember: $2,500

Printed color art

ASN Member: $350 a page
Nonmember: $400 a page
E-articles have no extra charges for color art typeset in the PDF. PDFs of print articles are exactly the same as print.

Supplementary Material

ASN Member: $55 for every 6 manuscript pages in online-only appendixes
Nonmember: $65 for every 6 manuscript pages in online-only appendixes
The ASN covers the costs of Dryad deposits for all authors.

Page Charges

$75 per page

ASN Grant

The American Society of Naturalists will make a grant-in-need (or a partial grant) to help cover the costs of page charges, if none of the authors have funding for page charges, if one of the authors is a member of the ASN, and if the ASN member has not had a grant-in-need in the previous 12 months. Grants-in-need are a benefit of membership in the ASN.



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Maximizing the Effect of Titles and Abstracts

Some search engines weight the keywords and key phrases in titles more than any other words in the article, so make sure that your title includes the most important terms of your manuscript. Think of the search terms and phrases that you use when working on this topic. Clever or dramatic titles can crowd out the most useful search terms--and can occasionally put off a reader--so are best used with caution.


Many search engines also weight the keywords and phrases that appear in the abstract more heavily when ranking a manuscript for relevance. The abstract is the point at which the reader decides to click through the search engine to the article itself, so a well-written abstract that is specific to the manuscript and focused on the main points is more likely to attract readers (and reviewers).


Google Scholar seems to look for the number of times the search term/keyword has been repeated in the body of the text. Make sure an essential search term for your article is used more than once.