Working Group

Integrative models of vertebrate sociality: evolution, mechanism and emergent properties

PI(s): Dustin Rubenstein (Columbia University)
Eileen Lacey (University of California, Berkeley)
Nancy Solomon (Miami University)
Steve Phelps (University of Texas, Arlington)
Start Date: 10-Oct-2010
End Date: 10-Oct-2012
Keywords: sociality, neurobiology, physiology, evolutionary theory, mathematical modeling

Whether animals live alone or in groups is a fundamental distinction that has profound implications for the nature of intraspecific social interactions. While behavioral ecologists have long sought to understand the ultimate (adaptive) explanations for group-living, psychologists, endocrinologists, and neurobiologists have typically focused on the proximate (mechanistic) bases for sociality. Recent advances in the latter disciplines have created exciting new opportunities to explore the causes and consequences of sociality from diverse perspectives. To capitalize upon these opportunities and to facilitate interaction among the disparate disciplines engaged in studies of sociality, the proposed working group will bring together researchers from traditionally distinct disciplines (e.g., behavioral ecology and neurobiology) to develop a new, integrative framework for understanding the causes and consequences of sociality. Specifically, the proposed working group will compile data from studies of social vertebrates to generate a comprehensive and integrative framework of sociality. We will then (a) develop explicit mathematical models of the relationships between mechanisms and patterns of social interaction and (b) test the predictions of these models using a series of comparative and meta-analyses. In addition to forging new connections between ongoing research programs, the proposed activities should identify novel, emergent aspects of sociality that will become significant targets for future investigation into the evolutionary drivers of vertebrate sociality.