Seminar with Dr. Mark Laidre
Host: Marc Schmidt
Architecture and social behavior might appear to occupy different worlds: one the physical world, the other the social world. Yet for many animals these two worlds are intimately connected, having reciprocally shaped one another over ecological and evolutionary time. Here I review over a decade of experimental work on social hermit crabs (Coenobita compressus), which have evolved to live in an architecturally-remodeled housing market of shells, requiring substantial social interaction with conspecifics. I focus on the dynamic feedback between behavior and architecture, particularly the ways that behavior shapes architecture and the ways that architecture in turn shapes behavior. This research has fused experiments on social behavior with detailed analyses of architecture, often through interdisciplinary collaborations involving engineering, morphology, biomechanics, and genetics. Altogether, these studies have incorporated diverse approaches that span field and laboratory, and underscore the significance of studying architecture to fully understand the evolution of social life. I conclude with a broader conceptual framework, which outlines the scope for studying dynamic feedbacks between architecture and animal social behavior across a wide variety of systems.