• 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

  • Muratore, IB, Mullen, SP, Traniello, JFA (2023) Transcriptomic analysis of mosaic brain evolution underlying complex division of labor in a social insect. Journal of Comparative Neurology 531: 853-865
  • Smith E.J., Vizueta J., Younger M.A., Mullen S.P., Traniello J.F.A. 2023. Dietary diversity, sociality, and the evolution of ant gustation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 11:1175719
  • Coto, Z, Traniello, JFA (2022) Social brain energetics: ergonomic efficiency, neurometabolic scaling, and metabolic polyphenism in ants. Integrative and Comparative Biology 62: 1471-1478
  • Muratore, I.B., Fandozzi, E.M., Traniello, JFA (2022) Behavioral performance and division of labor influence brain mosaicism in the leafcutter ant Atta cephalotes. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 208: 325–44
  • Traniello, JFA, Linksvayer TA, Coto, ZN (2022) Social complexity and brain evolution: Insights from ant neuroarchitecture and genomics. Current Opinion in Insect Science 53: 100962
  • DeSilva, JM, Traniello, JFA, Claxton, A, Fannin, LD (2021) When and why did human brains decrease in size? A new change-point analysis and insights from brain evolution in ants. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9:742639
  • Azorsa, FS, Muscedere, ML, Traniello, JFA (2021) Socioecology and evolutionary neurobiology of predatory ants. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9:804200
  • Kamhi JF, Gronenberg, WG, Robson, SKA, Traniello, JFA (2016) Social complexity influences brain production and operation costs in ants.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283: 20161949

Courses Taught:

  • BI 119 Sociobiology
  • BI 225 Introduction to Behavioral Biology

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