Constructing the social world: from home remodeling to a new social order


Thursday, April 13, 2017, 4:00pm


Haller Hall, Room 102, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Mark Laidre, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College.Of any animal species, Homo sapiens makes perhaps the most radical changes to its surrounding environment. This powerful capacity for ‘niche construction’ is intimately linked to a suite of seemingly unique adaptations, including strong reliance on social learning, habitual tool use, sophisticated communication, and high levels of cooperation among non-kin. In this talk I focus on a phylogenetically distant species, a humble invertebrate, which has independently converged on a parallel suite of analogous, human-like adaptations. Through long-term field and laboratory experiments, spanning a decade, I reveal how and why a seemingly trivial act of niche construction, remodeling homes, has sparked the creation of a new social order among these invertebrates. I conclude with recent work on the evolution of gossip, a form of social niche construction that is unique to humans.

marklaidre_heb_colloquium_4.13.17.pdf316 KB