social behavior

Tuesday January 9th

MCZ 101, 26 Oxford Street, Harvard University
07:30 PM

Natural selection and social networks in a horned beetle

Vince Formica

Swarthmore College

Bolitotherus cornutus fungus beetle. Photo credit: Stan Malcolm“All of life is social.” This quote by biologist Steven Frank drives home a simple fact about all living organisms: At some point in their lives they interact with members of their own species and those interactions have consequences for their success and ultimately the population’s evolution.

And yet, we still don’t fully understand: how do complex social behaviors evolve in nature? Social network analysis allows us to quantify the behavior of animals at the individual and the emergent, group level.

In this talk I will discuss my work on the evolution of social networks in the forked fungus beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus). Forked fungus beetles are charismatic insects that are found in eastern North American forests, and can live for several years in populations on decaying logs. Most importantly, they exhibit observable social interactions, such as courtship dances and male combat.

Every summer my team of undergraduate students and I track 20 populations of forked fungus beetles in an old-growth forest, mark and release hundreds of individuals, and record tens of thousands of interactions each year. I’ll discuss how the sign and magnitude of sexual selection for social networks is drastically different among populations that are only a few meters from each other. Together we’ll explore how combinations of traits (beetle horns and social network positions) can interact to make complex selective surfaces that could shape the evolution of behavior and morphology.

The talk is free and open to the public. The meeting is readily accessible via public transportation. Parking is available in the Oxford Street Garage with advance arrangement, as described here, or (usually but not always) at spaces on nearby streets. Everyone is also welcome to join us for dinner before the talk (beginning at 5:45 PM) at the Cambridge Common, 1667 Mass Ave., Cambridge.

CEC meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month from October through May. The evening schedule typically includes an informal dinner (5:45 to 7:15 PM) followed by our formal meeting (7:30 – 9:00 PM). The latter begins with club business and is followed by a 50 minute entomology related presentation. Membership is open to amateur and professional entomologists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

7:30 PM

Harnessing natural variation to study the evolution of social behavior

MCZ 101, 26 Oxford Street, Harvard University

Sarah Kocher
Harvard University

albipes_female
Plateaux_Quenu_collections

DSC_0718

Species exhibiting natural phenotypic variation are ideal for ecological genomic studies aimed at identifying some of the key genetic and environmental factors underlying the evolution of these traits. Halictid bees, or ‘sweat’ bees harbor extensive variation in sociality both within and between species, making them a model system for understanding the evolution of social behavior. One species in particular is ideal for dissecting the genetic basis of social behavior – Lasioglossum albipes. This species varies in social structure across populations, and common-garden experiments have suggested that this variation has a strong genetic component. I have recently completed a draft genome for this species, and ongoing population and comparative genomic work suggests that there are common genetic factors underlying the evolution of social behavior in this group of bees. I have also used a comparative framework to identify common ecological factors associated with biogeographic patterns in social structure. I will discuss how this work can improve our understanding of the link between the proximate mechanisms underlying individual variation in social behavior and the population processes driving their evolution.

The talk is free and open to the public. The meeting is readily accessible via public transportation. Parking is available in the Oxford Street Garage with advance arrangement, as described here, or (usually but not always) at spaces on nearby streets. Everyone is also welcome to join us for dinner before the talk (beginning at 6:00 PM) at Cambridge Common restaurant, on 1667 Massachusetts Ave.

CEC meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month from October through May. The evening schedule typically includes an informal dinner (6:00 to 7:15 PM) followed by our formal meeting (7:30 – 9:00 PM). The latter begins with club business and is followed by a 50 minute entomology related presentation. Membership is open to amateur and professional entomologists.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

7:30 PM

Decision making during the scouting behavior of the slave-making ant Protomognathus americanus

MCZ 101, 26 Oxford Street, Harvard University

Social parasite and hostSebastian Pohl
University of Melbourne

Collective decision making is important for social insects living in highly organized societies. However, often only a few individuals acquire information relevant for the entire colony. In the slave-making ant Protomognathus americanus, workers focus on a single task: searching for and raiding host colonies to replenish their slave workforce. Single scouts search for colonies of their Temnothorax hosts, which are subsequently attacked by a group of raiding slavemaker workers. Scouts and raiders risk being killed by host workers defending their colony. Considering both the raiding risk and the potential benefit, slavemaker workers have to make several decisions: when to start scouting, whether or not to participate in scouting or raiding events, and whether a discovered host colony is worth attacking. I investigated the scouting behavior of P. americanus using a combination of behavioral observations and chemical analyses, in order to elucidate the course of these crucial interspecific interactions between a social parasite and its host.

The talk is free and open to the public. The meeting is readily accessible via public transportation. Parking is available in the Oxford Street Garage with advance arrangement, as described here, or (usually but not always) at spaces on nearby streets. Everyone is also welcome to join us for dinner before the talk (beginning at 6:00 PM) at Cambridge Common restaurant, on 1667 Massachusetts Ave.

CEC meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month from October through May. The evening schedule typically includes an informal dinner (6:00 to 7:15 PM) followed by our formal meeting (7:30 – 9:00 PM). The latter begins with club business and is followed by a 50 minute entomology related presentation. Membership is open to amateur and professional entomologists.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

7:30 PM

Halictids as a Model of Social Evolution

MCZ 101, 26 Oxford Street, Harvard University

Sarah Kocher, Harvard University

The development of eusociality is considered to be a major transition in evolutionary history. Even Darwin noted the presence of sterile castes was “a special difficulty that was potentially fatal to the whole theory” of evolution. Previous studies on the evolution of social behavior have focused on species that have fixed social structure; however, because these species no longer exhibit variation in sociality, they provide limited models for discovering the factors that led to the evolution of social behavior. Halictid bees, on the other hand, provide an excellent study system. Different populations of a species can exhibit variation in social behavior that ranges from solitary to social. Dr Kocher will describe her research, which uses molecular and biogeographic approaches, studying the evolution of social behaviors in this remarkable family of bees.

The talk is free and open to the public. The meeting is readily accessible via public transportation. Parking is available in the Oxford Street Garage with advance arrangement, as described here, or (usually but not always) at spaces on nearby streets. Everyone is also welcome to join us for dinner before the talk ( beginning at 6:15 PM) at the Harvard Law School cafeteria, on the second floor of Harkness Commons.

CEC meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month from October through May. The evening schedule typically includes an informal dinner (6:15 to 7:15 PM) followed by our formal meeting (7:30 – 9:00 PM). The latter begins with club business and is followed by a 50 minute entomology related presentation. Membership is open to amateur and professional entomologists.