E&E Seminar: Better together? Group decision making in velvet worms, social insects and giant amoebas

Organisms display a wide variety of social behaviours ranging from nesting aggregations to parental care to the amazingly complex societies found in eusocial insects such as honeybees, termites and ants. In this talk, I will discuss how group living influences decision making in a range of organisms. I will start by describing attempts to understand the costs and benefits of group living in the velvet worm Euperapatoides rowellii, a species that may -or may not- exhibit social hunting behaviour.  Next, I will discuss dynamic multi-attribute decision making in social insects which face the challenge of integrating social and private information into their decision-making processes.  I’ll end by briefly discussing the peculiar case of slime moulds, where decentralised cooperative blobs are capable of making complex decisions, despite lacking a central nervous system.


Assoc. Prof Tanya Latty is an insect ecologist with broad interests in insect behaviour and ecology. Her lab moto is  ‘Saving the world with insects (and other invertebrates)’. Her research focuses on a range of challenges including developing better pollination systems for farms, finding ways to create pollinator friendly cities ,developing sustainable insect management strategies for agriculture, and using the amazing collective intelligence of ants, bees and slime moulds as inspiration for new technologies.  She is fascinated by the behaviour of organisms and is particularly interested in understanding how group-living organisms make collective decisions.  She studies a wide range of organisms( including slime moulds, social insects and velvet worms) and  has a special fondness for ‘weird’ and under studied taxa.  She is passionate about invertebrate conservation and strongly believes that the two goals of protecting invertebrate biodiversity and improving human health and wellbeing can go hand in hand.

Tanya has won several prestigious grants and awards including an ARC fellowship, and a Branco Weiss society in science fellowship (awarded to only 10 people globally each year, in any field of science). She is an active science communicator and has worked in TV, radio and print media. She is president of the Australian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour and sits on the education committee for the Australian Entomological Society.