Bridging Ontogeny, Mechanism, and Function in the Study of Complex Animal Signals (Visiting Scholar)
To better understand the complex relationship between animal communication, sexual selection, and kin selection, we propose to integrate ontogenetic, functional, and causational investigations of olfactory communication in the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), a promiscuous and highly social primate. This project will expand upon our understanding of lemur scent marking, which is linked to sexual selection, mate choice, and nepotism in this species, by investigating how complex olfactory signals develop and are maintained. Specifically, chemical data (obtained via GCMS of glandular secretions) amassed over the past ten years will be analyzed to explore the development and proximate mechanisms underlying the expression of odorant profiles. The resulting findings will then be considered in conjunction with previous studies on the ultimate function and evolutionary history of lemur olfactory communication to provide a comprehensive review of lemur olfactory communication in the context of sexual and kin selection.