Brian D. Peer 3/1/17

Brian D Peer

Professor of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University

Battle for the nest: Coevolution between avian brood parasites and their hosts

Wednesday, March 1

@ 12pm

in BPSB 122

(940 E 57th St)  

ABSTRACT: Avian brood parasites lay their eggs in the nest of other birds and rely on these hosts to care for their young. Brood parasitism is costly to the hosts and they have evolved a series of adaptations to reduce these costs, which in turn has selected for counter-adaptations by the brood parasites. One of the most enigmatic features of this system, and one that puzzled Darwin, is why hosts of brood parasites accept parasitism in spite of the significant costs. I will provide a brief overview of the brood parasites and their adaptations, and I will discuss the reasons for this apparent non-adaptive response to brood parasitism including the avian mafia, evolutionary lag, and evolutionary equilibrium. Finally, I will address the outcome of long term avian brood parasite-host coevolution.

Please contact me at if you are interested in meeting with Brian or joining for lunch!

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Dorothy Fragaszy 2/9/17

Dorothy Fragaszy

Professor of Psychology, Chair of Behavioral and Brain Science Program, University of Georgia

“Hercules with a tail: Stone tool use in wild bearded capuchin monkeys”

THURSDAY, February 9 @ 12pm
in BPSB 122

ABSTRACT: Wild capuchin monkeys living in Fazenda Boa Vista (Piauí, Brazil; a dry forest habitat) routinely use stone hammers to crack open very resistant palm nuts after they place the nuts on stone or log anvils. Capuchin monkeys transport nuts and stones to anvils, then strike the nuts to crack them, an impressive accomplishment given that the monkeys as adults weigh 1.8 – 4.4 kg, and the stones they use can weigh up to 3 kg. The monkeys display careful choice of nuts, hammer stones and anvils, and finely honed skill in cracking the nuts, including precise positioning of the nut on the anvil, precise handling of the stone hammer, precise control of the trajectory of their strikes and modulation of the force of their strikes in accord with the condition of the nut following the previous strike. Indeed, capuchin monkeys crack nuts in fewer strikes than novice humans. These features of tool use are unexpected in nonhuman primates, let alone small monkeys from South America, according to conventional views of physical and cognitive correlates of stone tool use. Stone tool use by capuchin monkeys opens up a new reference point for understanding the embodied nature of skilled tool use.

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Melinda Conners 1/25/17

Comparative Behavioral Biology Presents

Melinda Conners

Postdoctoral Fellow, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo

“Shadowed by Scale: Behavioral niche partitioning between two albatross species revealed by fine-scale GPS data”

Wednesday, January 25 @ 12pm
in BPSB 122

ABSTRACT: As synchronous, colonial breeders, Hawaiian albatross face additional constraints during the chick brood phase: 1) an increase in both intra- and interspecific resource competition and 2) a spatial restriction to poorer-quality subtropical habitat. We combined residence times, landing rates, and drift sinuosities from albatross movements collected with GPS data-loggers to describe the fine-scale foraging behavior of breeding black-footed (Phoebastria nigripes, n = 20) and Laysan (P. immutabilis, n = 16) albatrosses and to identify behaviors that reflect niche partitioning. Birds foraged both in direct flight and in area-restricted search, but direct flight foraging was the most prevalent, supporting the idea that spatial analyses dependent upon turn angles and speeds may underestimate important foraging strategies in albatross. Highly tortuous drifts were also common, suggesting that both species also often employed a drifting “sit-and- wait” tactic, a result reinforced by recent diet observations. Both species had similar time-activity budgets, but subtle differences emerged when examined under diurnal and lunar influences.

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Lydia Hopper 1/11/17

Comparative Behavioral Biology Presents

Lydia Hopper

Assistant Director, Lester E Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo

The Interplay Between Agency and Memory in Primate Social Learning

Wednesday, January 11 @ 12pm
in BPSB 122

ABSTRACT: Human and nonhuman primates are expert social learners, able to glean information by observing the actions of conspecifics. As such, they can gain new skills and adopt local traditions, while avoiding the need to repeatedly “reinvent the wheel.” Such non-genetic transmission is what underlies our rich cultural world and the behavioral traditions observed among certain nonhuman primate species. Research with primates has demonstrated that they learn more quickly, and are more successful in their learning, after observing a social model than after seeing the mechanics of a task alone. However, little is known about why social information is so potent. In this talk, I will discuss the different techniques that have been used to explore how and why models with agency are so integral to primate learning. Emerging research suggests an interplay between social learning and memory. To illustrate this relationship I will describe a recent study run at Lincoln Park Zoo that revealed that apes have better recall for events featuring a social model compared to agentless events. In concert with data from studies with human infants, the reported influence of a social model on chimpanzee and gorilla event memory suggests a foundational importance for social stimuli that appears shared among the Hominidae. Following this, social models aid memory for events and this memory in turn buoys imitative social learning.

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Timothy Brawn



University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division, Organismal Biology and Anatomy 

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience 

on Wednesday, November 16 

at 12pm 

in BPSB 122 (940 E 57th St) 

A bird’s-eye view of sleep dependent memory consolidation: From humans to starlings 

Abstract: How new experiences are solidified into stable memories is a central question in neuroscience. One of the most intriguing discoveries in memory research is that brain activity during sleep helps to transform newly learned information and skills into robust memories. Behavioral studies in humans have provided extensive evidence supporting sleep consolidation of a broad range of memory tasks. Studies in animal systems have elucidated potential mechanisms contributing to sleep consolidation but often without demonstrating any memory benefit for the animal. Here, I will discuss the behavioral approach to sleep consolidation in humans. I will then use this approach to develop a behavioral animal model of sleep consolidation and reconsolidation in starlings, focusing on the differential effects of wakefulness and sleep on memory consolidation as well as the interaction of multiple learning experiences. I will end by the describing the structure of sleep in starlings and the relationship between sleep states and sleep-dependent memory consolidation.

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Adam Brown

The Comparative Behavioral Biology Workshop Presents


University of Chicago Computational Neuroscience

Wednesday, November 2nd at 12pm in BPSB 122 (940 E 57th St) 

The Local Food Movement: Serotonin Facilitates Efficient Foraging in C. elegans

ABSTRACTFast responses can provide a competitive advantage when resources are inhomogeneously distributed. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans was shown to modulate locomotion on a lawn of bacterial food in serotonin (5-HT)-dependent manners. However, potential roles for serotonergic signaling in responding to food discovery are poorly understood. We found that 5-HT signaling in C. elegans facilitates efficient exploitation in complex environments by mediating a rapid response upon encountering food. Genetic or cellular manipulations leading to deficient serotonergic signaling resulted in gradual responses and defective exploitation of a patchy foraging landscape. Physiological imaging revealed that the NSM serotonergic neurons responded acutely upon encounter with newly discovered food and were key to rapid responses. In contrast, the onset of responses of ADF serotonergic neurons preceded the physical encounter with the food. The serotonin-gated chloride channel MOD-1 and the ortholog of mammalian 5-HT1 metabotropic serotonin receptors SER-4 acted in synergy to accelerate decision-making. The relevance of responding rapidly was demonstrated in patchy environments, where the absence of 5-HT signaling was detrimental to exploitation. Our results implicate 5-HT in a novel form of decision-making, demonstrate its fitness consequences, suggest that NSM and ADF act in concert to modulate locomotion in complex environments, and identify the synergistic action of a channel and a metabotropic receptor in accelerating C. elegans decision-making.

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Gene Robinson

The Comparative Behavioral Biology Workshop Presents


from the Department of Entomology and the Carl W. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

this Wednesday, October 19 at 12pm 

in BPSB 122 (940 E 57th St) 

Me to We: Using Honey Bees to Search for the Genetic Roots of Social Life 


True societies are very rare in biology, but have evolved repeatedly in a group of insects that include the ants, bees, and wasps, with the honey bee widely considered a paragon of sociality. In this lecture I will use the honey bee and related bee species to demonstrate how genomics enables the study of social life in molecular terms, with examples of mechanisms relating selfish behavior that have evolved to promote cooperation, and connections between socially responsive genomes and human health.

If you are interested in meeting with Dr. Robinson during his stay, please contact me at

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I’d like to welcome everyone back for the 2016-2017 year with a


on Wednesday, October 5th 

at 12pm in BPSB 122

(940 E 57th St) 

We will provide FREE LUNCH, will share details about upcoming speakers, and will give everyone a chance to get to know each other.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to

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Welcome to the 2016-2017 Comparative Behavioral Biology Workshop

Welcome to the Comparative Behavioral Biology Workshop!

Wednesdays @ 12pm

Biological Sciences Building, 940 East 57th St

Seminar Room 122

This seminar series explores questions of behavior and biology from multiple disciplines spanning ethology, psychology, physiology, neuroscience, genetics, ecology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and more! Students and faculty are encouraged to participate in this opportunity to get feedback on dissertation chapters, proposals, defenses, or job talks and share new and ongoing research with the rest of the scientific community! This workshop also provides a unique opportunity for students and faculty to invite, meet with, and hear from prestigious speakers from around the world.

If you are interested in presenting at this workshop or if you would like to invite a speaker please contact me at

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Jason Munshi-South

Don’t miss our FINAL COMPARATIVE BEHAVIORAL BIOLOGY seminar of the year by:


from the Louis Calder Center & Dept of Biological Sciences at Fordham University

“A Tale of Two Rodents: Evolution of deer mice and rats in New York City” 

Wednesday, June 1st @ 12pm 

in Biopsychological Sciences Building (BPSB 940 E 57th St) Room 122

Abstract: A unique assemblage of native and nonnative rodents inhabit New York City, but differ in their occupancy of “green” and “gray” infrastructure. They also vary in their ability to disperse through heterogenous urban landscapes, which can have profound implications for genetic drift, migration, and selection in urban populations. For the past seven years my lab has been using population genomic approaches to investigate the evolutionary biology of white-footed mouse populations in and around New York City. This talk reviews our work on loss of genome-wide variation, evolutionary potential, historical demography, and natural selection in these populations. Unlike white-footed mice that are isolated in urban forests, NYC rats avoid forest fragments but occupy much of the remaining urban habitat. Our lab has recently begun investigating the population genomics of NYC rats to understand how they use urban space, how they have adapted to new urban conditions, and how they are related to rat populations around the world.

If you are interested in meeting with Dr. Munshi-South during his visit, please contact Christine Fleener at 

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