Benjamin Taylor

Ben

Position: PhD Student

Project: The evolution and mechanisms of post-reproductive lifespan in Polistes wasps

Research Interests: I am primarily interested in the evolution of sex and sociality. Cooperation confers obvious advantages in many animal species, but it also open up enormous possibilities for conflict. I want to understand the strategies that individuals use to make the most of their interactions with conspecifics, maximising their own fitness payoffs while avoiding exploitation by others.

My current research is focused on the evolution of eusociality, which represents a highly successful but poorly-understood evolutionary transition. In eusocial animals, most individuals (‘workers’) have little opportunity to produce their own offspring, while a small number of dominant individuals (‘queens’) monopolise the vast majority of reproduction. How do queens monopolise reproduction, and why do workers cooperate with queens rather than pursuing their own direct reproduction?

Using a combination of field experiments, lab analyses and theoretical modelling, I will investigate how and why the reproductive capabilities of workers are controlled in the simple eusocial paper wasps Polistes canadensis and Polistes dominula. By understanding when and why workers in these species choose to avoid reproductive conflict rather than compete for reproductive opportunities, I hope to develop new insights into the evolution of eusociality.

Background:

2016 – Present: PhD Candidate, University College London

2014 – 2015: MSci History & Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

2010 – 2014: BA (Hons) Zoology, University of Cambridge

Contact:

E-mail: benjamin.taylor.16@ucl.ac.uk

Twitter: @BenTaylorEvo