The evolution of learned behaviors: insights from birds and humans

Nicole Creanza, Vanderbilt University
- | DRL 4C4

Abstract: Cultural traits—behaviors that are learned from others—can change more rapidly than genes and can be inherited not only from parents but also from teachers and peers. How does this complex process of cultural evolution differ from and interact with genetic evolution? In this talk, I will discuss the dynamics of culturally transmitted behaviors on dramatically different evolutionary timescales: the learned songs of a family of songbirds and the spoken languages of modern human populations. Both of these behaviors enable communication between individuals and facilitate complex social interactions that can affect genetic evolution. Our analyses of these two systems demonstrate that learned behaviors can affect evolutionary processes and potentially influence speciation.