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NIMBioS Seminar Series

In conjunction with the interdisciplinary activities of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), a seminar series on topics in mathematical biology will be hosted at NIMBioS every other Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. (unless otherwise noted) in the Hallam Auditorium, Room 206, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd. Seminar speakers will focus on their research initiatives at the interface of mathematics and many areas of the life sciences. Light refreshments will be served in Room 206 beginning 30 minutes before each talk. Faculty and students from across the UT community are welcome to join us.

E. Hobson photo.

Time/Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 3:30 p.m.*
Location: Room 206, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd.
Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Hobson, NIMBioS postdoctoral fellow
Topic: Emergent Social Properties and the Evolution of Social Complexity
Abstract: Group-level properties, such as dominance hierarchies, emerge from the outcomes of individual-level events. Although individuals can gain critical benefits from their position in the hierarchy, we have a limited understanding how real-world hierarchies form or what signals and decision rules individuals use to construct and maintain them in complex groups. A study of aggression in two groups of captive monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) found that a transition to large-scale ordered aggression occurred in newly-formed groups after one week, with individuals thereafter preferring to direct aggression against those nearby in rank. Network motifs in the form of chains of aggression among individuals provided information about relative rank and were highly predictive of behavioral preferences. I present a new theory, the "knowledge-behavior feedback loop," which links an individual's knowledge of rank with its consequent behavior. I use this framework to explain the transition from unstructured to strategic aggression and the formation and persistence of dominance hierarchies in groups capable of both social memory and social inference. I will discuss how this work provides insight into the social and cognitive complexity of the monk parakeet and how this approach could be used more broadly to understand the evolution of social complexity in other species.

*Join us for refreshments at 3 p.m. in Room 206.

Seminar Flyer (pdf)

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E. Hobson.

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NSF logo. NIMBioS is sponsored by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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