• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Harvard University
  • 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

  • Arganda, S., Hoadley, A.P., Razdan E.S., Muratore, I.M., and Traniello, J.F.A. 2020. The neuroplasticity of division of labor: worker polymorphism, compound eye structure and brain organization in the leafcutter ant Atta cephalotes. J. Comp. Physiol. A DOI: 10.1007/s00359-020-01423-9
  • Kamhi JF, Ilieş I, Traniello JFA (2019) Social complexity and brain evolution: comparative analysis of modularity and integration in formicine ant brain organization. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 93: 4-18.
  • Gordon DG, Zelaya A, Arganda-Carreras I, Arganda S, Traniello JFA (2019) Neurobiological correlates of extreme morphological and behavioral specialization in the turtle ant Cephalotes varians. PLoS One 14: e0213618.
  • Kamhi JF, Arganda S, Moreau CS, Traniello JFA (2017) Origins of aminergic regulation of behavior in complex insect social systems. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 11: 74.
  • 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, Gronenberg WG, Robson SKA, Traniello JFA (2016) Social complexity influences brain production and operation cost in ants. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 283: 20161949.
  • Kamhi J.F, Nunn, K., Robson, S.K.A., and Traniello, J.F.A. 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 (Recommended by F1000Prime, http://f1000.com/prime/725662511)
  • 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.

Courses Taught:

  • BI 119 Sociobiology
  • BI 225 Introduction to Behavioral Biology

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