Maria Creighton

McGill University
M.Sc. candidate

Supervisor: Simon Reader
Start: 2018-01-01


Determinants of evolutionary diversification in primates: Testing the behavioural drive hypothesis
The ‘behavioural drive’ hypothesis proposes that behavioural changes expose individuals to new environmental pressures, leading to evolutionary diversification. Despite on-going controversy regarding the extent to which behaviour plays an active role in animal evolution and the need for new modelling approaches, relatively little work has empirically tested the ‘behavioural drive’ hypothesis. For my project I am using existing databases as well as new databases compiled from existing literature to test the behavioural drive hypothesis in primates. To test this hypothesis I am using measures of behavioural flexibility such as innovation and social learning rate, as well as variables such as brain size, neocortical volume, body mass, life history, range size, and mid-range latitude along with new behavioural measures that I am compiling myself. I am predicting that I will observe a positive relationship between subspecies diversification and my measures of behavioural flexibility, which would lend support to the ‘behavioural drive’ hypothesis. The extensive availability of behavioural data for primates provides us with the unique opportunity to explore this influential hypothesis in a feasible manner. If the ‘behavioural drive’ hypothesis were supported, it would have important implications on our current understanding of evolutionary mechanisms. Additionally, as a part of my degree requirements I have recently spent a month and a half in Panama studying spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) fission-fusion dynamics under the direction of PhD candidate Grace Davis, and Dr. Margaret Crofoot from UC Davis.


Animal behaviour, evolution, Primates