Evolution of family life
Geoff While, from University of Tasmania in Australia, will give a talk om "The evolutionary ecology of lizard family life". More about Geoff While at the Unviersity of Tasmania's web.
Family groups form the basis of social organisation across a wide range of organisms. Understanding the factors responsible for the evolutionary origins and diversification of family living has been a major challenge for biologists. Lizards offer a valuable system in this context because they provide us with a window into the very early stages of family life. Here I will report on a unique group of Australian lizards, the Egernia group, which provide a particularly useful system in this context. One of the most striking features of the Egernia group is that they include highly social lizards that form stable family groups. While some species are largely solitary, in others males and females form long-term pair-bonds sometimes holding territories where juveniles can remain with their parents. In the most extreme cases this can lead to large communal groups of up to 30 related individuals, including non-breeding adults who stay within their parent’s social group. The huge diversity in family structure across the Egernia group make them the idea model system to connect processes occurring across levels of biological organisation (from individuals to populations to species) and ultimately provide novel insights into the evolutionary origins of family life.