• 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

  • Coto, Z., Traniello, J.F.A. 2022. Social brain energetics: ergonomic efficiency, neurometabolic scaling, and metabolic polyphenism in ants. Integr. Comp. Biol. doi: 10.1093/icb/icac048.
  • Muratore, I.B., Fandozzi, E.M., Traniello, J.F.A. 2022. Behavioral performance and division of labor influence brain mosaicism in the leafcutter ant Atta cephalotes. J. Comp. Physiol. A 208: 325–44.
  • DeSilva, J.M., Traniello, J.F.A., Claxton, A., Fannin, L.D. 2021. When and why did human brains decrease in size? A new change-point analysis and insights from brain evolution in ants. Front. Ecol. Evol. 9:742639.
  • Azorsa, F.S., Muscedere, M.L., Traniello, J.F.A. 2021. Socioecology and evolutionary neurobiology of predatory ants. Front. Ecol. Evol. 9:804200.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Courses Taught:

  • BI 119 Sociobiology
  • BI 225 Introduction to Behavioral Biology

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