Collective Behaviour - Winter Seminar Series

The evolutionary significance of social interactions – a case study in house mice

Prof. Dr. Barbara König, University of Duisburg-Essen

Barbara König is a Professor in the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at University of Zurich. Her research focuses on mechanisms that promote and stabilise social interactions in mammals by understanding the evolution of social behaviour as well as how interactions with conspecifics structure groups and populations. She uses behavioural, ecological, physiological and molecular genetic methods both in the laboratory and in the field.

Papers include "Fitness Consequences of Female Alternative Reproductive Tactics in House Mice (Mus musculus domesticus)" (The American Naturalist) and "Infection-induced behavioural changes reduce connectivity and the potential for disease spread in wild mice contact networks" (Nature)

The evolutionary significance of social interactions – a case study in house mice

Social interactions are central to many organisms and influence behaviour and ultimately fitness. The social environment is considered to be the most complex and fluctuating component of an individual’s environment because of its high degree of flexibility and intrinsic unpredictability. We study the significance of social interactions in a population of free-living house mice (Mus musculus domesticus), using an integrative approach. In my talk, I will first discuss the fitness consequences of social cooperation. Group-living female house mice both compete over reproduction and cooperate during communal nursing of litters. Social interactions proved to be critically important for reproductive success, and social partner choice allows females to minimise costs during a social dilemma. Other costs imposed by social interactions is exposure to contagious agents. The immune system can play a critical role in modulating social behaviour when animals are sick, as has been demonstrated in the context of “sickness behaviours”. As a second example, I will present preliminary data on our understanding of how the immune system plays a critical role in modulating social behaviour.

Datum: 2019-11-18