Sexual Dialogues

Organizers: Peter Dunn, Gerlinde Hoebel, Rafael Rodriguez, and Linda Whittingham

Recent discoveries indicate that communication involving a back–and–forth of influence between the sexes is common in nature - beyond previously recognized levels in cases of sex–role reversal. Not only do males produce advertisement signals and court females, but females often court males before and even during mating. Sexual coevolution may therefore involve signal and preference traits in both sexes. This symposia will explore the potential for this two–fold mode of coevolution to influence the amount of assortative mating, the speed of divergence, and the strength of sexual selection on communications systems, as well as compare the sources of selection on the mate choice criteria of the sexes, and their influence on sexual selection.


Daniel Briceño, University of Costa Rica-
Michelle Hall, University of Melbourne-
Anka Kuhelj. Institute of Biology, Slovenia-
Masayo Soma, Hokkaido University-

What Are We Not Asking About The Evolution of Behavior That We Should Be Asking

Organizers: Peter Dunn, Gerlinde Hoebel, Rafael Rodriguez, and Linda Whittingham

We invite applications for a symposium on “Research Questions That We Should Be Asking”. Presenters will outline their view of an important topic on the evolution and/or ecology of behavior that is being neglected by current research. Do you think a topic is being neglected because it is deemed too risky by the traditional 3-year grant system? Or because we have not yet grasped its importance? This is a chance to bring attention to it.

Each presentation will last 20 min, with another 10 min for questions from the audience. The last session will be a 20-min round table discussion among the presenters, with 10 min for questions from the audience. 

Following the symposium, we will conduct a crowd-funding exercise, with audience members voting with dollars for the most interesting idea. The top two ideas will share the funds gathered.

Selected Presenters:

Kate Gentry, Purdue University. Communication Is Fundamental To Arguments About The Evolution Of Social Cognition
Susan Foster, Clark University. Atavism As A Source of “Novelty” In The Evolution of Behavior
Andrew Sih, University of California, Davis. On The Importance of Acknowledging and Studying Individual Differences In ‘Skill’ Or ‘Intelligence’?
Trevor Price, University of Chicago. Understanding Color Perception In Order To Understand Color Differences Between Species
Elizabeth Hobson, Santa Fe Institute. What Are We Missing In Current Measures Of Animal Social Complexity?

Animal Behavior in Historical Context: Novel Insights From Interdisciplinary Encounters

Organizer: Zuleyma Tang-Martinez

The purpose of this symposium is to provide a forum for interdisciplinary dialogue among those who practice the science of animal behavior and produce the scientific knowledge (practitioners of animal behavior) and those who study the process of scientific discovery and the origin and evolution of concepts and ideas in science (historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science, with a particular interest in animal behavior and related concepts). The social sciences and humanities have produced a fascinating literature exploring various aspects of our field, including its epistemology and controversies. Thus, these two groups and traditions share a strong common interest (animal behavior), but rarely communicate directly at professional meetings to understand and learn from one another.

The symposium includes presentations both by historians of science and by animal behaviorists (non-historian scientists) who have a strong interest in historical and philosophical perspectives and have developed their own historical, philosophical, or socio-cultural interpretations of their specialties within animal behavior. A recurring theme for both groups is the origins of ideas and how they change over time - including the process of generating questions, producing scientific information, deciding what counts a facts, and interpreting data.

The speakers, who are internationally diverse, come from a range of disciplines (biologist, psychologists, historians, philosophers, and those interested in sociological aspects of science). Some topics are more specialized than others, but the historical, philosophical, and social perspectives undergirding the presentations should appeal to a wide cross section of animal behaviorists. The hope is that by the end of the symposium, new lines of communication will have been established and scholarship in both groups will be enhanced as a result of gaining novel insights, and better understanding the perspectives of the different disciplines.


Colin Beer, Rutgers University. Questions of Instinct
Theodora J. Kalikow, University of Maine, Farmington. Konrad Lorenz on Human Degeneration and Social Decline: A Chronic Preoccupation
J. Jordan Price, St. Mary's College of Maryland. Tinbergen’s Neglected Fourth Question On the Phylogeny of Behavior
Klaus Jaffé, Universidad Simon Bolivar, et al. Ethology and Animal Behavior in Latin America
Janice Moore, Colorado State University. A Brief History of Parasites, Behavior, and Fickle Fashion
Michael Trestman, University of California, Davis. Our Evolving Understanding of Animal Minds - from Darwin to the Present
Mark Borrello, University of Minnesota. Group Selection and Animal Behavior: Examining the Role of Theory in Discipline Formation
Lynn K. Nyhart, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Governing the Hive: Biological Individuality and Animal States in the Nineteenth Century
Erika Milam, Princeton University. Colloquial Science at the Intersection of Pop-Ethology and Professional Research: A History
Ambika Kamath & Jonathan Losos, , Harvard University. How Do We Know The Things We Think We Know? Paradigms, Imperfect Science, and Lizard Mating Systems
Thiery Hoquet, Université Paris Nanterre. Bateman 1948: Rise and Fall of a Foundational Paper?
Danielle Lee, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Beyond Visibility: Exploring the Impact of Diversity and Inclusion Activism on Animal Behavior
Zuleyma Tang-Martínez, University of Missouri - St. Louis. The Impact of Women on the History of Animal Behavior and in the ABS

How Enemies Shape Communication Systems

Organizers: Ximena Bernal and Rachel Page

Eavesdropping predators impose strong selective pressure on prey communication systems. Signalers have evolved numerous anti-predator strategies to mitigate the tradeoff between predator detection and conspecific communication. Knowledge of anti-predatory strategies in the context of communication is needed to recognize patterns of strategies to solve this trade-off and ultimately understand the evolution of communication systems. Antagonistic selection from predators on their prey’s communication system can modulate signaling strategies, shape signal structure and affect population dynamics. Drawing on diverse research from a range of taxa and sensory modalities, our symposium combines the expertise of established researchers with new perspectives in the field. We cover a range of research, drawing on both traditional and cutting-edge experimental approaches, as well as conceptual studies that synthesize research to date and shed light on the future directions of the field. Ultimately the aim of this symposium is to develop a framework that integrates the strategies used by signalers to communicate under the pressure imposed by eavesdropping predators and parasites.


Ximena Bernal, Rachel Page. How enemies shape communication systems
Ryo Nakano. Trade-offs between loudness and duration of ultrasonic courtship songs in moths
Eben Goodale, Graeme Ruxton, Guy Beauchamp. Can predator eavesdropping affect communication signals in mixed-species groups?
M. Virant-Doberlet, A. Kuhelj, J. Polajnar, R. Šturm. Is vibrational signaling a private communication channel?
Rüdiger Krahe, Philip K. Stoddard. Crypsis and diversification in the evolution of electric signaling in weakly electric fishes
Laurel Symes, Sharon Martinson, Lars Höger, Rachel Page, Hannah ter Hofstede. Effects of predator cues on prey signaling behavior: bat echolocation and katydid calls in the Neotropical forest canopy
William Wagner, Oliver Beckers. Evolution of riskier male signals and female preferences in response to eavesdropping parasitoids
Justa Heinen-Kay, Marlene Zuk. Why does signal exploitation only rarely lead to trait loss?
Molly Cummings. Ultraviolet and light polarization as private channels in swordtails


Presidential Symposium: Animal Communication, Cognition, and the Evolution of Language

Organizer: William A. Searcy

Some behaviors found in animal communication are cognitively demanding, and these may be particularly revealing of the conditions and selective pressures that led to the evolution of language. This symposium will examine cognitively demanding communicative behaviors in three groups of animals: honeybees, birds, and non-human primates. Aspects of communication behavior that will be discussed include vocal production learning, semantic communication, pragmatics, and compositional syntax. These behaviors are illustrative of features of human language that are also found to some degree in non-human animals.


William Searcy, University of Miami
Robert Seyfarth, University of Pennsylvania
Toshitaka Suzuki, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies
Klaus Zuberbühler, University of St. Andrews
Thore Bergman, University of Michigan
Asif Ghazanfar, Princeton University
Christoph Grüter, University of Mainz, Germany
Carel ten Cate, Leiden University

Allee Symposium for Best Student Paper

Organizer: Jennifer Fewell

This symposium features outstanding graduate student research, with an award for the best paper, and is a highlight of ABS meetings. The session honors Dr. Warder Clyde Allee (1885–1955), an animal behavior researcher who was very influential in the development and direction of animal behavior research in the 20th century. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1951 and ranks among the leading twentieth century ecologists, especially for his work in behavioral and animal ecology. In the 2018 ABS Allee Session, students will present their research to ABS members and talk judges.