The seminar series

The Animal Behaviour Live: Seminar series is a series of seminars featuring researchers in animal behaviour from all over the world to promote the latest findings in our field. The 2022 seminar series will be held on YouTube every month starting in March 2022. Join our newsletter to stay up to date.

2022 season — Seminar series

#6 Where beauty hides: spiders as models for elegant research and educational inspiration

30 August 2022, 2pm GMT

Dr Anita Aisenberg is Head of the Laboratorio de Etología, Ecología y Evolución, Clemente Estable Biological Research Institute, Montevideo, Uruguay. Anita does research in Animal Behavior, Zoology and Evolutionary Biology.

#5 Differences in the post-hatch behaviour of two common Nigerian indigenous chicken ecotypes

26 July 2022, 2pm GMT

The two major ecotypes of Nigerian indigenous chickens are Fulani and Yoruba ecotypes. The Nigerian indigenous hens exhibit their natural behaviour repertoire, including maternal care. There is a strong bond between the hen and her chicks. Thereby making the importance of maternal care in chickens very essential. Chicks raised without a mother are more fearful and aggressive. The presence of the mother helps to mediate the chicks' responses to stress. Reports on the behaviour of Nigerian indigenous chicks post-hatch are scanty. In this study, we monitored the behaviour of the hens and their brood for the first four weeks post-hatch. The behaviours of interest were chick warming, play-related (mother-chick and chick-chick play), aggression (mother trampling on chicks, maternal aggression towards chicks, mother pecking chicks), and oral-related (feeding, drinking, and foraging) behaviours. Ecotype had no influence on chick warming, but aggressive and oral-related behaviours were greater in the Yoruba than in Fulani ecotype chickens.

Dr. Oluwaseun Serah Iyasere is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Animal Physiology at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria where she teaches courses in comparative animal behavior, environmental physiology, ethics in animal physiology research and animal welfare. She is a specialist in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and current interests for instant span maternal care in Nigerian indigenous chickens.
Dr. Samuel Olutunde Durosaro is a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Animal Breeding Genetics, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Victor Juwon Oyeniran is a master's student in the Department of Animal Physiology at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

#4 Song, Flight and Death: Benefits and costs of acoustic communication in crickets and katydids

28 June 2022, 2pm GMT

Male crickets and katydids produce loud acoustic signals or calling songs to attract conspecific females from a distance. These signals contain information on species identity, mate location and quality, opening up the possibility of female choice based on acoustic signals. Using a tree cricket species, male signalling and female choice were examined from a sensory ecological perspective. Females preferred larger and louder males. An interesting alternative signalling strategy used by males of this species is to build acoustic amplifiers using leaves that increase call loudness: this is shown to be a condition-dependent strategy used by disadvantaged males. Finally, the costs of acoustic signalling by males and searching by females are examined and contrasted in two predator-prey systems: tree crickets and their spider predators, and katydids eaten by predatory bats.

Dr Rohini Balakrishnan is a professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Bangalore, India. Her lab investigates the causes and consequences of animal behaviour in natural environments at both proximate and ultimate levels, for which acoustic communication is used as the model.

#3 Digging in: What are tucos-tucos revealing about subterranean sociality?

31 May 2022, 4pm GMT

Understanding the causes and consequences of variation in social organization is a fundamental goal of behavioral biology. Studies of subterranean rodents have played a prominent role in these analyses due to their marked diversity in social organization, with species ranging from solitary to eusocial. While the extreme social behavior of African mole-rats is now well known, other lineages of subterranean rodents remain poorly characterized, thereby hampering opportunities for comparative analyses across convergent examples of life in underground burrows. Using data drawn from ongoing field studies of tuco-tucos (Rodentia: Ctenomyidae), I describe our growing understanding of variation in social organization among members of this South American radiation and I identify several contrasts between tuco-tucos and African mole-rats, further study of which promises to generate new insights into the adaptive bases for variability in mammalian social organizations.

Dr Eileen Lacey is a professor of integrative biology at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, USA. Her lab investigates vertebrate social behavior and population biology.

#2 Transitions in the Study of Social Evolution in Reef Fish Societies

26 April 2022, 9am GMT

Dr Marian Wong is a senior lecturer at the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences of the University of Wollongong, Australia. Her lab uses social fishes from both marine and freshwater environments as model species to test key hypotheses related to the evolution of conflict, cooperation, group-living and mating systems.
Catheline Froehlich is a PhD student at the University of Wollongong, Australia, supervised by Dr. Marian Wong. Her Ph.D. investigates the evolution of sociality in coral-dwelling gobies as well as the impacts of environmental disturbances on their social behaviours.

#1 The evolution, parasitic exploitation and molecular regulation of social behaviours in Temnothorax ants

29 March 2022, 2pm GMT

During social evolution, ants have adapted their social lifestyle by developing an efficient division of labour and defending their societies against endo- and social parasites. They have evolved many different lifestyles, from the small Temnothorax colonies consisting of only a few dozen individuals to the multi-million member societies of leafcutter ants, from altruistic behaviours to various forms of social parasitism. Social insects are prime examples of phenotypic plasticity and can respond dynamically to changes in their social environment. We will present results on the evolution and molecular regulation of the complex behaviours of Temnothorax ants, including how parasites manipulate their behaviour. We demonstrate that ants infected with a parasitic cestode are not only less active, but also do not flee when attacked, which facilitates transmission to the final host, woodpeckers. These parasitized ants also live much longer, and we investigate the release of parasitic proteins into the haemolymph of infected ants, the functions of which are related to lifespan extension, and changes in behaviour and gene expression. We show that the division of labour between workers is associated with differential gene expression mainly in the antennae and less in the brain. Indeed, brood care behaviour is controlled by a candidate gene, vitellogenin-like A, whose RNAi-mediated down-regulation leads to differential responsiveness to social (chemical) cues, suggesting an important role of olfaction in regulating task division. We reveal how these ants have evolved complex defence portfolios against the raids of socially parasitic ants and which behavioural and molecular changes have enabled the evolution of these fascinating parasitic lifestyles.

Marah Stoldt is a PhD student at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany. Her Ph.D. project mostly focuses on the role of gene expression in adaptive processes in ants of the genus Temnothorax.
Dr Suzanne Foitzik is a professor in Evolutionary Biology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany. Her research group investigates the evolution of social behaviour in ants and bees, taking an integrative approach from behavioural ecology over genomics to epigenetics.

2021 season — Seminar series

#4 Deciphering intrasexual competition in females: Lessons from antelope, lizards and mosquitoes

28 September 2021, 2pm GMT

Intrasexual competition, the competition between individuals of a sex, is known to result in the evolution of bizarre, conspicuous, sometimes dangerous, often decorative traits. Our understanding of such competition derives primarily from males competing for mates. There is mounting evidence for widespread intrasexual competition in females. We are only beginning to discover the diverse range of ecological contexts in which female-female competition occurs. What can we learn from taxa as different as mosquitoes, lizards and antelope? We present work from our group that attempts to decipher female-female competition in diverse ecological contexts: how females compete for mates on antelope leks, how female lizards deploy multiple signals and aggression strategically during competition, and how female mosquitoes adopt unexpected and seemingly dangerous tactics when competing for resources for their offspring. We discuss how due to key life history differences, intrasexual competition is likely to favour traits in females that are quite different from those historically reported in males.

Dr Devica Ranade

Dr Manvi Sharma

Dr Kavita Isvaran

#3 Studying the behavior of free-ranging Brazilian nonhuman primates

27 August 2021, 2pm GMT

Neotropical primates are amazing subjects for behavioral studies. They vary in social organization and structure, diet composition, activity budget, locomotion types, habitat use and many other aspects. In this talk, Bicca-Marques will begin by describing the goals and major findings of the research on primate behavior, ecology, cognition and conservation biology that has been developed over 20+ years by the members of the Laboratory of Primatology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, Pampas, Amazon Forest, Cerrado and Caatinga biomes.

Then, Sacramento will describe her field experiment on the social foraging of three free-ranging groups of black-tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix penicillata) in the Cerrado of the National Park of Brasília in Central Brazil. Specifically, she will discuss the influence of the finder’s share (the proportion of the resource that is consumed by the producer [first individual to arrive] of the feeding patch before the arrival of the latecomer scroungers) on the foraging strategy and feeding success of marmosets. She established one artificial feeding station within the home range of each study group and exposed the marmosets to two experimental conditions: low finder's share (few food-rich patches) and high finder's share (many food-poor patches).

Finally, Lopes will explain her research on the behavioral strategies adopted by a group of Prince Bernhard’s titi monkeys (Plecturocebus bernhardi) to cope with fluctuations in the availability of preferred, seasonal foods. Her study group inhabited a 2.3-ha forest fragment in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon. In addition to recording the behavior of titi monkeys from dawn-to-dusk, she monitored the phenology of the tree species to estimate the availability of fruits, flowers and leaves and she used traps to estimate the availability of invertebrates.

Thalita Siqueira Sacramento

Karine Galisteo Diemer Lopes

Prof. Dr. Júlio César Bicca-Marques

#2 Smart Sharks

12 August 2021, 9am GMT

Sharks are often viewed as mindless killing machines; their inflexible behaviour driven by instinct. However recent studies investigating shark intelligence suggest that they are far more complex than previously thought. Here I present a summary of our recent work on shark cognition using Port Jackson sharks as a model species. Port Jackson sharks are capable of associating artificial noises (music) with food rewards and can be trained to move to a specific location when they hear the noise. Sharks can not only learn individually but can also learn from observing or interacting with others (social learning). Sharks are also capable of quantity discrimination and, contrary to expectations, this ability is actually enhanced under global warming scenarios. Finally, we show that shark brains are lateralised much like the rest of the vertebrates. Laterality is associated with enhanced cognition and is also impacted by rearing embryos at increased temperatures. A better understanding of shark cognition helps us explore the driving forces behind shark behaviour and has implications for fisheries and animal welfare.

Pr Culum Brown

#1 Fascinating anomalies: understanding social parasitism by an African honey bee clone

28 May 2021, 2pm GMT

Cohesion in social insect colonies is regulated by the use of chemical signals produced by the queen, workers and brood. In honey bees, signals from the queen are vital for the regulation of reproductive division of labour ensuring that the queen remains the only reproductive female in the colony. However, even with this strict level of control, workers can, in principle by her, activate their ovaries and lay eggs. In this talk, we focus on an example of exception to the rule in the workers of the African Cape honey bee Apis mellifera capensis Eschscholtz, where a single clonal lineage of this subspecies evolved into facultative parasites that actively seek out colonies of other honey bee subspecies, invade and take over the role of reproduction in the presence of the resident queen. We will present the behavioural and physiological traits that accompany this fascinating behaviour specifically how the parasites exerts reproductive dominance and how the host queens regulate them.

Dr Fiona Mumoki

Dr Yusuf Abdullahi Ahmed

Suggested background reading

  • Yusuf, A.A., Pirk, C.W.W. & Crewe, R.M. 2015. Mandibular gland pheromone contents in workers and queens of Apis mellifera adansonii. Apidologie 46, 559–572. doi:10.1007/s13592-014-0346-6
  • Yusuf, A.A., Crewe, R.M., Pirk, C.W.W. 2018. Turning workers into false queens: the role of exogenous pheromones in regulating reproduction in worker honey bees. Journal of Experimental Biology 221 (13): jeb175505. doi:10.1242/jeb.175505
  • Mumoki, F.N., Pirk, C.W.W., Yusuf, A.A., Crewe, R. M. 2018. Reproductive parasitism by worker honey bees suppressed by queens through regulation of worker mandibular secretions. Scientific Reports 8, 7701. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-26060-w
  • Mumoki, F.N., Yusuf, A.A., Pirk, C.W.W., Crewe, R.M. 2021. The Biology of the Cape Honey Bee, Apis mellifera capensis (Hymenoptera: Apidae): A Review of Thelytoky and Its Influence on Social Parasitism and Worker Reproduction. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 114, 219–228. doi:10.1093/aesa/saaa056