NSF Proposal Funded

December 16, 2013 by Brandt Ryder


Smithsonian Migratory Research Center scientist Brandt Ryder, along with colleagues from Virginia Tech, will receive funding from the National Science Foundation for a research project "Understanding how a hormone-signaling pathway modulates behavioral phenotype within a social network".

Overview: Hormone regulatory networks are essential for the development of complex phenotypes, and these whole-organism outcomes scale up to affect behavioral interactions and subsequent higher order social network structure. To date, no study has concurrently examined the proximate links between individual variation in hormone-signaling pathways, behavioral phenotype and social network structure. Here, we aim to fill this gap in knowledge by examining a hormone-signaling pathway thought to underlie variation in social behavior and subsequent network structure in a cooperative lek-breeding bird, the wire-tailed manakin (Pipra filicauda).

We use an evolutionary framework to ask two primary research questions:

  1. How does individual variation in the hormone-signaling pathway shape behavioral phenotype, and
  2. How does individual variation in behavioral phenotype scale up to affect social network structure?

To answer these questions, we will integrate behavioral ecology, neuroendocrinology, and molecular genetics in a comprehensive field study of a unique and promising organism. The research will combine descriptive studies (natural variation in hormones, behavior, and neuroendocrine gene expression), experimentation (phenotypic engineering, hormone challenges, and social intrusions), and novel social networking approaches (proximity data-logging).