jeudi 9 mars 2017

PhD project Strasbourg: Evolution of social organization and its variability in mammals

Evolution of social organizationand its variability in mammals
Projet (maximum 4000 caractères, espaces et sauts de lignes compris):
Formerly it was believed that each species has one specific form of social organization. However,
it is now widely known that intra-specific variation in social organization (IVSO) is common in
some but not in other species. In this PhD project we want to investigate which environmental
factors and which factors of the life history are associated with the occurrence of IVSO.
In collaboration with Dr. L. Hayes (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA), we are
building up a dataset on mammalian social organization, identifying in which species intraspecific variation in social organization occurs. We only consider information from primary
literature, which often differs dramatically from what is reported in secondary literature (Valomy,
et al. 2015). We will include information on the environment and on different life history
parameters into the dataset. The statistical supervisor for this project will be Dr. C. Bertelsmeier
(University of Lausanne, Switzerland), an expert in phylogenetically controlled analyses of large
We will test which environmental factors and which life history parameters are associated with
the occurrence of IVSO. For example we predict that IVSO occurs more frequently in species
that occur in habitats characterized by high inter-annual year variation in rainfall and food
abundance. We will also differentiate between the four different mechanisms that can lead to
IVSO (genetic variation; developmental plasticity; environmental disrupters; social flexibility;
Schradin 2013). For example, we predict that IVSO occurs more often in species that are
typically characterised by one dominant breeding pair, indicating that environmental disrupters
(death of one dominant breeder) cause the observed variation.
Finally, we will use the new database to approach questions regarding social evolution in
mammals that have been previously tested with simplified databases where each species has only
one form of social organisation. This includes the ancestral form of social organisation in
mammals, the evolution of group living, the evolution of monogamy and the evolution of
paternal care.
The database for IVSO is partly built up by master students (approx. 50% of the species are
done). The PhD student will have to finalise the database and check the existing database. For
each major mammalian taxa, we aim for one paper describing the occurrence of IVSO (for an
example see Valomy et al. 2015). The PhD student will then include available information on
environmental and life history data, develop and run statistical models to test for the specific
hypotheses, and write publications.
Opportunity to conduct field work in South Africa: The PhD student will also have the
opportunity to spend 5 months in South Africa in the first year, conducting field work within a
postdoc project. This project is about IVSO in African striped mice and whether it is an
adaptation to geographic variation in population structure. The PhD student would then become
co-author on the major publication of this project. This would require that the PhD student is hard
working and very well organised, for both projects (database and field work).
Objectives of the study:
Contrats doctoraus proposal C. Schradin   Intra-specific variation in social organisation
  Study the influence of environmental unpredictability on IVSO
  Study the influence of life history parameters on IVSO
  Which ones of the four mechanisms leading to IVSO (see Schradin 2013) are
occurring in nature? Especially, when is IVSO an adaptive strategy, when enforced
by extrinsic factors?
  How does our understanding ofsocial evolution (monogamy, cooperative breeding,
paternal care, group versus solitary living) change when IVSO is taken into
Social evolution; mammals; statistical modelling; international collaboration; field work in Africa
Compétences souhaitées (maximum 600 caractères, espaces et sauts de lignes compris)
Requirements by the ED to make an application likely to be successful:
1.  The applicant must be within the top 33% of the master
2.  The applicant must have marks in her / his master of >14.0 points.
Specific requirements by the supervisors:Hard working, good knowledge of R and good
statistical skills. Ability to work hard and independently. Good knowledge of English spoken and
written. Enthusiasm for studying social evolution.
Expertises qui seront acquises au cours de laformation (maximum 600 caractères, espaces
et sauts de lignes compris)
1.  Managing large databases
2.  Statistical skills
3.  Deep knowledge of the evolution of sociality and of mammalian social systems
4.  Management skills: project and time management.
5.  Scientific productivity: writing of scientific publications, scientific presentations.
6.  Improvement of English skills.
7.  Personal skills: being part of an international research team in Strasbourg, the USA and
Switzerland (and maybe South Africa).
8.  Possibly field experience for several months in South Africa
Mot clé (maximum 50 caractères, espaces compris) qui s'affichera dans une liste déroulante
pour la consultation des sujets sur le site de l'Ecole Doctorale
Social evolution, R programming, mammalian social systems
Publications majeures de l'équipe relatives au sujet au cours des 3 dernières années. Si
nouveau sujet, sans publications, merci d'indiquer 3 publications récentes du DT :
Schradin, C. 2013. Intraspecific variation in social organization by genetic variation,
developmental plasticity, social flexibility orentirely extrinsic factors. Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 368.
Schradin, C., Lindholm, A.K., Johannesen, J., Schoepf, I., Yuen, C.H., König, B. & Pillay, N.
2012. Social flexibility and social evolution in mammals: a case study of the African
striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio).Molecular Ecology. 21: 541-553.
Contrats doctoraus proposal C. Schradin   Intra-specific variation in social organisation
Valomy, M., L. D. Hayes, and C. Schradin. 2015. Social organization in Eulipotyphla: evidence
for a social shrew. Biology Letters 11.
Contrats de l'équipe (maximum 150 caractères, espaces et sauts de lignes compris)
Travel grants will be applied for. Otherwise the project is not cost intensive. If the PhD student
decides to participate in field work in South Africa, then the costs for this would be covered by
the CNRS (travel) and the Succulent Karoo Research Station (research expenses).
Commentaires éventuels pour l'Ecole Doctorale(maximum 600 caractères, espaces et sauts de
lignes compris) :
The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. C. Schradin (DR2, HDR), international expert in
socio-ecology who runs the striped mouse project, and Prof. Dr. L. Hayes from the University of
Chattanooga, USA. Schradin and Hayes are building together the database on mammalian social
organization. For the statistical analysis, the student will be supervised by Dr. Cleo Bertelsmeier
from the University of Lausanne, who currently applies at the CNRS concours to join the DEPE
in Strasbourg. Dr. Bertelsmeier is an expert in phylogenetically controlled analyses of large