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Ecology and Evolution of Social Complexity

Ask someone to name a social animal and her thoughts are drawn to ants, meerkats, or humans. In contrast, the social life of lizards may seem dull. Not so. Some lizards live in social groups that differ in size and complexity in fascinating ways. Together with former postdoc Geoff While at the University of Tasmania we study links between behavior and social structure in a group of lizards known as Egernia. Our main study species Liopholis whitii lives in family groups. Geoff has shown that the composition and stability of these groups are dictated by both the genetic structure of the population and the ecological conditions. Together these factors shape selection on a suite of characters that are important for understanding the social life of lizards. Egernia are also interesting because species differ in their social systems, ranging from solitary species to those that live in large groups with several overlapping generations. This makes it possible to reconstruct the steps towards social complexity, unravelling how social systems originate and are maintained.

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Contact information

Tobias Uller
Wallenberg Academy Fellow
Evolutionary ecology

Telephone: 046-222 30 94
E-mail: tobias [dot] uller [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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