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Neuroscience Brown Bag Series

Thursday, October 12, 2017,
  • Location: Wilson Hall
  • Room: 316

Nicole Creanza, PhD

Biological Sciences Department

Vanderbilt University

The evolution of learned behaviors: insights from birds and humans


Cultural traits—behaviors that are learned from others—can change more rapidly than genes and can be inherited not only from parents but also from teachers and peers. How does this complex process of cultural evolution differ from and interact with genetic evolution? In this talk, I will discuss the dynamics of culturally transmitted behaviors on dramatically different evolutionary timescales: the learned songs of a family of songbirds and the spoken languages of modern human populations. Both of these behaviors enable communication between individuals and facilitate complex social interactions that can affect genetic evolution. My analyses of these two systems demonstrate that learned behaviors, while less conserved than genetic traits, can retain evolutionary information across great distances and over long timescales.