James F. A. Traniello
Professor of Biology
PhD, Harvard University, 1980
Areas of interest: behavior, ecology and evolution of social insects; neuroethology; social brain evolution; behavioral development and senescence; evolution of division of labor
Social insects are exemplars of biological complexity and are among the most evolutionarily successful and ecologically dominant animals on earth. We study the behavioral mechanisms and neural basis of social organization and the ecology and genetics of colonies and populations of social insects, with an emphasis on caste, division of labor and brain evolution. Darwin’s sense of wonder was excited by the ant brain’s capability of “extraordinary mental activity with an extremely small absolute mass of nervous matter.” We feel the same way. By exploring the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of social behavior using immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, high-performance liquid chromatography and pharmacological interventions to examine the regulation of task performance and behavioral development, we seek to understand the neural basis of social structure in light of ecology and evolution. Our integrative studies connect sociobiology, neurobiology and ecology to understand the selective forces associated with social brain evolution in ants, and how the brain meets the demands of processing complex information at the level of the individual and society as a whole. Current research centers on the hyperdiverse ant genus Pheidole, leaf-cutter ants and Australian weaver ants. We are also interested in social mechanisms of disease resistance and tropical ant diversity, behavior and ecology.
- BI 107 Introductory Biology I
- BI 119 Sociobiology
- BI 224 Seminar in Behavioral Biology
- Muscedere ML, Traniello JFA (2012). Division of labor in the hyperdiverse ant genus Pheidole is associated with distinct patterns of worker brain organization. PLoS One 7: e31618.
- Muscedere ML, Johnson N, Kamhi JF, Gillis BC, Traniello JFA (2012). Serotonin modulates worker responsiveness to trail pheromone in the ant Pheidole dentata. J. Comp. Physiol. 198: 219-227.
- Muscedere ML, Traniello JFA, Gronenberg W (2011). Coming of age in an ant colony: cephalic muscle maturation accompanies behavioral development in Pheidole dentata. Naturwissenschaften 98: 783-793.
- Mertl AL, Sorenson M, Traniello JFA. (2010). Interspecific variation and ecological correlates in the hyperdiverse ground-foraging Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) community of Amazonian Ecuador. Insectes Sociaux 57: 441-452.
- Muscedere ML, Wiley T, Traniello JFA (2009). Age and task efficiency in the ant Pheidole dentata: young minor workers are not specialist nurses. Animal Behaviour, 77: 911-918.
- Mertl AL, Traniello JFA (2009). Behavioral evolution in the major worker subcaste of twig-nesting Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): does morphological specialization influence task plasticity? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63:1411-1426.
- Seid M, Li C, Goode K., Traniello JFA (2008). Age- and subcaste -related patterns of serotonergic immunoreactivity in the optic lobes of the ant Pheidole dentata. Developmental Neurobiology 68:1325-1333.
- Seid M, Harris K, Traniello JFA (2005). Age-related changes in the number and structure of synapses in the lip region of the ant Pheidole dentata. Journal of Comparative Neurology 488, 269-277.