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The Evolution of Ant Societies

  • This event already took place in December 2023
  • Caspary Auditorium

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
Daniel Kronauer, Ph.D., Stanley S. and Sydney R. Shuman Associate Professor, head, Laboratory of Social Evolution and Behavior; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Speaker bio(s)

The colonies of social insects are complex biological systems in which manifold interactions between individuals give rise to emergent properties that are adaptive at the group level. However, most social insects cannot be propagated in captivity or genetically manipulated, severely limiting the scope for experimentation. Over the past twelve years, the Kronauer Lab has developed and utilized the clonal raider ant, Ooceraea biroi, as a new model species that overcomes many of these limitations, allowing us to study social dynamics and underlying mechanisms under controlled laboratory conditions. Their work has led to a deeper understanding of how ants within a colony assume distinct behavioral roles and efficiently divide labor, how they communicate, both as adults and across different developmental stages, and how these interactions result in collective behavior. Additionally, their research has shed light on how evolution has repurposed and expanded genetic, neural, and physiological mechanisms from solitary ancestors to produce highly social organisms. In this seminar, Dr. Kronauer will provide an overview of this work and discuss future directions in his research program aimed at understanding the evolution and organization of insect societies, spanning from genes to neural circuits and behavior.

Daniel Kronauer received his diploma in biology from the University of Würzburg in Germany in 2003, where he studied the evolution of social parasitism in honeypot ants with Bert Hölldobler and Jürgen Gadau. He received his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, where he worked with Koos Boomsma on social dynamics in army ants. After a brief postdoctoral assignment at the University of Lausanne, he was elected as a junior fellow to the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2008. He joined The Rockefeller University as assistant professor in 2011 and was promoted to associate professor in 2018. He has been an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 2021.

Kronauer has received honors including an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, an Irma T. Hirschl/Monique Weill-Caulier Trust Research Award, and a Quadrivium Award for Innovative Research in Epigenetics. He has also been named a Searle Scholar, a Kavli Fellow, a Klingenstein-Simons Fellow, a Sinsheimer Scholar, a Pew Biomedical Scholar, and a faculty scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2017, a new species of beetle, Nymphister kronaueri, was named after him.

FLS lectures will take place in Caspary Auditorium and virtually via Zoom. We recommend virtual participants log out of VPN prior to logging in to Zoom. Please do not share the link or post on social media. This talk will be recorded for the RU community.

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