What evolutionary and developmental processes are involved in creating physical variation?
Is selection responsible for moulding the diversity of life?
Or does developmental bias via drive and constraint determine how animal shapes change?
Abby Drake is interested in the processes that produce macroevolution and dictate which physical appearances, evolve and which do not.
She is especially interested in learning how species evolve: What mechanisms produce enough physical or behavioural change to ensure reproductive isolation on the population level?
To this end, she studies developmental processes that lead to large modifications of morphology, using variation in vertebrate skulls to answer these questions.
Abby uses three-dimensional scan data to capture each specimen’s 3D geometry.
This type of data allows her team to look at the shape of the skull holistically using a sophisticated shape analysis called geometric morphometrics.
While she also works on cetaceans, owls and primates, this episode focuses on her extensive work examining canids: when did wolves become dogs, how have we shaped them, and where might they go in the future?
Imagine deciphering the first form of intentional communication to be recorded in the animal kingdom, such as how chimpanzees communicate.
That’s exactly what Dr. Catherine Hobaiter has done after years of following wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest of Uganda, Africa.
She studies the evolution, acquisition and flexibility of communication and social behaviour, in particular through long-term field studies of wild chimpanzees.
For the past seven years, Cat has been working as a primatologist at a forest research-station in Uganda to better understand chimpanzee communication and behavior.
She hopes to to advance our understanding of great ape communication, and in addition, by looking at areas of overlap or species specific traits, she hopes to also gain an understanding of the evolutionary origins of language.
In this episode, we learn from Cat about her exciting observations of a communication system where animals don’t just share information through behaviour, but deliberately send messages of meaning to each other.
Listen in, and you’ll find out exactly how how chimpanzees communicate.