I study the interdependencies and connections among sociality, communication, and cooperation. Modeling suggests that communication and cooperation can be stabilized by social interactions. At the same time, we know communication reduces the potential costs of intergroup competition and cooperation is a way to realize the benefits of sociality. Further, a number of evolutionary hypotheses predict that complexity in one of these three leads to or requires complexity in another. My work uses observations of and experiments with wild and captive animals to tease apart the factors governing how these complex behaviors evolve and interact.
As a PoE Fellow, I am working with Dr. Eileen Hebets to study the cooperative hunting behavior of a social pseudoscorpion (Paratemnoides nidificator) and the neural development and intelligence of the amblypygid (Phrynus marginemaculatus). Paratemnoides nidificator lives in colonies, shares parental care, and hunts large insects. Their unique social structure allows us to ask questions about how social ties and communication signals affect their ability to cooperate to obtain food. From this, we can determine whether social bonds built up over time or signals emitted during hunting are more important for cooperation. Our work with P. marginemaculatus tests two popular hypotheses for the evolution of large brains in primates: environmental complexity and social complexity.