Group dynamics

August 04, 2004

Every family unit is a complex social network influenced by numerous inputs. In nature, social organizations at the family and small-group level can range from violent to peaceful, monogamous to polyandrous, segregated to sharing work. On Wednesday August 4, 2004, scientists will gather for the symposium, "Family Dynamics: the Evolution and Consequences of Family Organization." The session, to be held during the Ecological Society of America's 89th Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, will examine the varied structures of social organization and the conditions, from genetics to habitat, that affect the evolution and development of these groups.

Michael Neubert (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) will begin the session with an overview of the theories for family organization and implications of family structure on populations in his talk, "Family Dynamics: An introduction to the symposium with an example from invasion dynamics."

Andrew Dobson (Princeton University) will follow Neubert, describing how the social organization of hosts can affect the transmission of diseases in, "The coevolution of host social organization and pathogen transmission." Examining data from primates and carnivores, along with theoretical models, Dobson will also discuss the possible role of pathogens in shaping populations.

From the influence of viruses and bacteria, the session will shift to the miniscule but mighty genes. In "Interactions within families and the evolution of social behaviors," Michael Wade (Indiana University-Bloomington) will examine the role of genetics, especially those from the mother, in the development and sharing of particular behaviors.

The symposium will then turn to sexual selection's role in family groups. Joan Roughgarden (Stanford University) will present her talk "Social selection: Between-and within-sex allocation of cooperative effort and emergence of family structure." Suggesting traditional sexual selection theories are more complicated than the concept of "horny, handsome, warriors, and discreetly discerning damsels," Roughgarden will explain how selection follows social relationships, not showy traits.

Rounding out the presentations, "Their own worst enemy: How lions survive in a world filled with other lions," will be presented by Craig Packer (University of Minnesota-St Paul). According to Packer, lions live in one of the most complex social systems of any mammal. He will discuss how male-male and female-female relationships and the expansive habitat in which lions live force them into "gang membership" in order to survive.

For more information about this session, and other ESA Annual Meeting activities, visit the ESA meeting homepage at: http://www.esa.org/portland. The theme for the meeting is "Lessons of Lewis and Clark: Ecological Exploration of Inhabited Landscapes." Close to 4,000 scientists are expected to attend.
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Ecological Society of America

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