I investigate why populations differ in their social behaviour. I classify the extent of cooperation and competition between individuals in a wide range of populations and identify which environmental conditions lead to certain behaviours. My current research focuses on identifying whether these conditions also shape human behaviour.
My research reveals that where and with whom individuals live influences how they behave
Populations do not consist of random collections of individuals, but of organised societies: individuals can live solitarily, in pairs, or in groups. I have shown that, in mammals, changes in environmental conditions influence the distribution of females, and males arrange themselves in response to females.
Relationships among individuals vary widely: they might kill or help each other, with both sometimes occurring in the same species. I have shown how the distribution of individuals, and in particular kinship, shapes competition and cooperation. I am now determining how differences in behaviour link to reproductive success.
In my research, I primarily look at trees: family trees and phylogenetic trees
Information on the parents of individuals can reveal their ancestry and who is related to whom. This information also provides the full reproductive histories of individuals, showing if, how often, and when individuals had their children. We determine how kinship shapes behaviour and how behaviour influences reproduction.
To determine how the environment shapes behaviour, we perform comparisons across individuals, populations, and species. We identify when changes in sociality and behaviour occurred, what the conditions were at the time of the change, and how sociality subsequently influences physiology, morphology, and other behaviours.
Here are some of the projects I am currently involved in. Contact me in case you are interested in developing a project to apply for funding. For more on the vision and code of conduct of my research team please see the pages of the Comparative Behavioural Ecology group.
Global social variation
Studies in mammals and birds have identified that species with certain social behaviour are predominantly found in certain environments. This project investigates whether humans living in these environments show similar behaviour. With Andreas Pondorfer and Toman Barsbai
Kinship and behaviour
Human and non-human societies differ in how closely individuals are related and whether families stay together. This project investigates whether kin composition influences interactions within groups. With Jeremy Koster and Tim Clutton-Brock
Competition between individuals is a fundamental aspect of the evolution of mammalian societies. Is it beneficial for individuals to rank above others of the same sex? And when would we expect that individuals of one sex have more power than individuals of the opposite sex. With Elise Huchard and Shivani
Behaviour and expansion
I am a collaborator on the great-tailed grackle project. This project investigates whether behaviour plays a role in their adaption to new environments. My particular focus is on understanding the mating and dispersal behaviour across their expansion range. With Corina Logan
Sharing and reproduction
Across animals, risks and resource availabilities in the environment influence the timing and investment in reproduction. We are interested whether in humans transfer of resources might mean that reproduction is more shaped by the social than the ecological environment. With Pablo Jose Varas Enriquez
Marriages among cousins are common across human societies, despite the potential risk of inbreeding. Are these potential costs balanced by fitness benefits such that cousin marriages are an adaptive strategy in certain environments? With Arianna Dalzero
I engage with people from diverse backgrounds who are fascinated by animal behaviour. These interactions inspire me to see new angles to my research. Here are some examples of my exchanges with science journalists:
I provide links to the final versions on the publisher's websites, the deposited open pdfs, and data. On the top are preregistrations that have passed peer review for which we are currently collecting the data and completing the analyses; next are preprints of completed studies that are currently undergoing peer-review; followed by published articles.
Local convergence of behavior across species.
Barsbai T, Lukas D, Pondorfer A (2021) doi: 10.1126/science.abb7481