Evolution of social behaviors

Abstract Natural selection is expected to lead to "good" genes taking over a population, and thereby to deplete genetic variation in natural populations. Nevertheless, even traits closely correlated to fitness often show considerable genotypic and phenotypic variation. Social behavior like dominance behavior and parental care behavior can vary widely between individuals, and incur fitness consequences. There must therefore be mechanisms operating that result in genetic variation in social behavioral traits being preserved. Different social environments may select for different social traits.
A PhD position is available to examine this hypothesis and the evolutionary consequences. We will analyze 12 years of data from a pedigreed, wild island population of house sparrows. We use focused experiments on captive sparrows in Germany to test our hypotheses generated from observations on the wild population. This project takes place in cooperation with the University of Sheffield. The fieldwork on scenic and remote Lundy Island (UK) will take place 4 months each summer, requiring an independent and committed individual. Applicants should have an interest in evolutionary biology.

Keywords Behavioral ecology, indirect genetic effects, island population, quantitative genetics, social environment, social networks, songbird

Main advisor Julia Schroeder, MPIO Seewiesen

Interested in this PhD project? Apply here!

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