The evolution of mammalian social and mating systems
I am interested in the evolution of mammalian social and mating systems. At the interface between sexual and kin selection, a major axis of my work explores the causes and consequences of reproductive and life history strategies in mammalian societies using observational and experimental data, mostly in the context of long-term, individually-based studies. My past research has examined the evolution of sexual signals, mate choice, multiple mating (polyandry) and reproductive conflicts within and between sexes in natural populations of primates such as the Tsaobis baboons and the Kirindy lemurs.
In the Kalahari meerkats, my primary work explores the extent of social and genetic influences on development and growth trajectories using quantitative genetics and experimental approaches. Individual variation in growth is high in cooperative breeders and may reflect plastic divergence in developmental trajectories leading to breeding vs. helping phenotypes. My core questions explore the influence of social competition on the phenotypic plasticity of growth and whether individuals can strategically adjust their growth to the growth of rivals, as well as the relative importance of additive genetic variance, developmental plasticity and phenotypic flexibility in shaping the growth trajectories and cooperative propensities of individual meerkats.