Aging and social behaviour

Supervisors: Per T. Smiseth, Jacob Moorad

Project Description:

Aging is associated with a gradual deterioration of health and function in humans, other animals, and plants. Most current research focuses on how aging affects those individuals who do the aging. However, given that aging individuals interact with other individuals, it is now important to understand how social interactions with others may impact on the rate of aging. For example, stressful interactions such as competition may speed up aging whilst benign interactions such as cooperation may slow the rate of aging. Furthermore, it is now important to understand how the effects of aging may spread to younger individuals that interact with older ones. For example, younger individuals that cooperate with older ones may increase their contribution towards a common task, such as caring for joint offspring. If so, younger individuals may suffer from indirect costs of aging.

This project will be conducted on the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. This species is an ideal study system because they have elaborate social behaviours, including biparental cooperation and resource competition. Furthermore, this species can be studied under laboratory conditions, which facilitates collection of data on social behaviours and rates of aging.

The project will provide training in evolutionary theory of aging and social behaviour, experimental design, collection and statistical analyses of behavioural data and data on aging, preparation of oral presentations and written manuscripsts.

Further reading:
Ivimey-Cook, E.R. & Moorad, J.A. 2018. Disentangling pre- and post-natal maternal age effects on offspring performance in an insect with elaborate maternal care. American Naturalist 192. (DOI: 10.1086/699654)

Mattey, S.N. & Smiseth, P.T. 2015. Complex effects of inbreeding on biparental cooperation. American Naturalist, 185, 1–12.

Richardson, J. & Smiseth, P.T. 2017. Intraspecific competition and inbreeding depression: increased competitive effort by inbred males induces a fitness cost to outbred opponents. American Naturalist 189, 539–548.

If you wish to apply for this project, please go to this link.