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PNB Colloquium Series - Aimee Dunlap - Components of change and the experimental evolution of learning



Aimee Dunlap
University of Missouri - St. Louis

Components of change and the experimental evolution of learning

Learning is a fundamental mechanism in the behavior of animals. Researchers of learning agree that the adaptive value of learning, and when learning should evolve, depends on the rates of change in the environment. Directly testing these ideas has been difficult because experiments must assume an evolutionary past, but controlling or even assessing change has proven difficult. These problems become tractable by using the techniques of experimental evolution. By partitioning change into different components and manipulating their statistical properties, we can predict when and what kind of learning should evolve, which cues or signals animals should attend to, and when innate bias should evolve instead of learning. These predictions enable the experimental evolution of learning and prepared learning in fruit flies in the laboratory. I will discuss our work on these evolutionary experiments and data on the mechanisms and function of the evolved changes.


Aimee is an associate professor of Biology at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Aimee earned a MS in Biological Sciences with Russ Balda at Northern Arizona University, a PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior with David Stephens at the University of Minnesota, and completed postdoctoral work on bumblebees with Anna Dornhaus at the University of Arizona. Aimee’s research focuses on the evolution of cognition using evolutionary experiments in fruit flies and cognitive studies on native bees in North America, both in the lab and in the field.
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