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Social Inheritance and Its Consequences in Animal Societies

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar

Social Inheritance and Its Consequences in Animal Societies

Erol Akcay, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
University of Pennsylvania

The social network structure of animal populations has major implications for survival, reproductive success, sexual selection, and pathogen transmission of individuals. But as of yet, no process-based theory of social network structure exists that can explain the diversity of social networks observed in nature, and serve as a null model for detecting species and population-specific factors. In this talk, I will present a simple and generally applicable model of social network structure. In our model, network structure emerges from social inheritance, in which newborns are likely to bond with maternal contacts, and via forming bonds randomly.

We compare model output to data from several species, showing that it can generate networks with properties such as those observed in real social systems. Our model demonstrates that important observed properties of social networks, including heritability of network position or assortative associations, can be understood as consequences of social inheritance.

I will also present data from a long-term study on spotted hyenas in which we can quantify social inheritance directly. Finally, I will present a model exploring how social traits such as cooperation coevolve on networks structured by social inheritance. This model reveals a self-limiting feedback between cooperation and the evolution of networks so that conditions that favor cooperation gets selected against when cooperation is prevalent.

Born and raised in Turkey, Dr. Akcay completed his undergraduate degrees in physics and biology at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. He moved to the US to pursue his PhD in biology at Stanford University, working on models of mutualism and reproductive social behavior.

Dr. Akcay was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, University of California at Berkeley, and Princeton University. Since 2014, he is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Akcay's lab works on all aspects of social evolution, from microbial to human systems.

Contact Information

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