• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Harvard University, 1980
  • Web Address http://people.bu.edu/jftlab/Home.html
  • Phone 617-353-2832
  • Area of Interest behavior, ecology and evolution of social insects; neuroethology; social brain evolution; behavioral development and senescence; evolution of division of labor
  • CV

Current Research

Social insects are exemplars of biological complexity and, together with humans, are among the most evolutionarily successful and ecologically dominant animals on earth. We study the behavioral mechanisms, ecology, and evolution of social behavior in insects, with an emphasis on collective intelligence, division of labor and their influence on brain evolution. Darwin 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 neurobiology of social structure in light of ecology and evolution. Our integrative studies connect sociobiology, neurobiology, physiology, gerontology, 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. Research centers on the evolution and neural architecture of the social brain, measuring its metabolic rate using microrespirometry, and determining social metabolic scaling. We are also interested in the genomics of social brain evolution.

Selected Publications

  • Kamhi JF, Gronenberg WG, Robson SKA, Traniello JFA (2016) Social complexity influences brain production and operation cost in ants. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 283: 20161949.
  • Giraldo YM, Kamhi JK, Fourcassie V, Moreau M, Rusakov A, Wimberly L, Diloreto A, Kordek A, Traniello JFA (2016)  Lifespan behavioral and neural resilience in a social insect.  Proc. R. Soc. B, 10.1098/rspb.2015.2603.
  • Kamhi JF, Nunn K, Robson SKA, Traniello JFA (2015) Polymorphism and division of labour in a socially complex ant: neuromodulation of aggression in the Australian weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina. Proc. R. Soc. B 282 20150704; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0704.
  • Muscedere ML, Helms Cahan S, Helms K, Traniello JFA  (2015)  Geographic and life-history variation in ant queen colony founding correlate with brain amine levels.  Behavioral Ecology doi:10.1093/beheco/arv152.
  • Feinerman O and Traniello JFA (2015) Social complexity, diet, and brain evolution: modeling the effects of colony size, worker size, brain size, and foraging behavior on colony fitness in ants.  Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 69:1-12.
  • Ilies I, Muscedere ML, Traniello JFA (2015) Neuroanatomical and morphological trait clusters in the ant genus Pheidole: evidence for modularity and integration in brain structure. Brain Behav. Evol.85:63–76.
  • Muscedere ML, Gronenberg W, Moreau CM, Traniello JFA (2014)  Investment in higher-order central processing regions is not constrained by brain size in social insects. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 281 1784. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0217.
  • Giraldo YM and Traniello JFA (2014) Worker senescence and the sociobiology of aging in ants. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol., 68: 1901-1919.

Courses Taught:

  • BI 119 Sociobiology
  • BI 225 Introduction to Behavioral Biology

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