E&E Webinar: Environments, kinship, and the evolution of societies

There is great variation in how individuals interact with each other. Variation in sociality has been argued to reflect adaptations to the environment, but the exact links between local conditions and social behaviors are often unclear. In this presentation, I will argue that changes in life history are one important step in the path linking environmental variation to social behavior. I will draw on comparative studies of mammals to show that environmental influences on female reproduction determine whether interacting individuals are related or not, and that this variation in kinship influences social behavior. Next, I will show that the behaviors humans show in a given environment mirrors that of other mammals and birds living in the same area, and discuss the potential role of life history and kinship in shaping the diversity of human sociality.


I did my PhD with Linda Vigilant in the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig in 2008. After that, I was a postdoc with Tim-Clutton-Brock at the University of Cambridge for almost 10 years. Since 2017, I am back at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, this time as a senior researcher in the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture. In my research, I aim to highlight the role of kinship in structuring social behaviour, resolve long standing questions about the evolution of animal societies, and advance novel approaches to provide insights into the evolution of sociality. I'm lucky to work on research questions that capture the attention of a broad audience so that several of my findings have made it into the media. I'm trying to share the privilige that I have been afforded, and I have put together a list with fellowships for postdocs in biology and I have put together resources and done research on diversity in academia.