• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Harvard University, 1980
  • 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

  • Gordon DG, Zelaya A, Ronk K, Traniello JFA (2018) Interspecific comparison of mushroom body synaptic complexes of dimorphic workers in the ant genus Pheidole. Neuroscience Letters 662: 110-114.
  • Gordon DG, Ilieş I, Traniello JFA (2017) Behavior, brain, and morphology in a complex insect society: trait integration and social evolution in the polymorphic ant Pheidole rhea. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 71: 166.
  • 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.
  • Kamhi JF, Sandridge A, Walker C, Robson SKA, Traniello JFA (2017) Colony organization and worker brain development in ants: does division of labor reduce neuroplasticity? Devel. Neurobiol. 77(9): 1072-1085.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kamhi JF, Nunn K, Robson SKA, Traniello JFA (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.

Courses Taught:

  • BI 119 Sociobiology
  • BI 225 Introduction to Behavioral Biology

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