Public Release: 

Are people smarter than pigeons? AAAS Annual Meeting speakers report on animals with 'social smarts'

American Association for the Advancement of Science


AUDIO: Gail Patricelli offers commentary on her research into evolution and social behavior on this AAAS podcast. view more

Credit: AAAS

Emerging evolutionary studies are revealing that animals have "social smarts," too, with a range of behaviors that can enhance species survival, according to speakers at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), set for 12-16 February 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.

For example, Gail Patricelli, an assistant professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, is using a robotic seductress to learn why "the male sage-grouse may need not only a big flashy display, but also the ability to use it appropriately." A top male sage-grouse can strut both faster and more precisely, she says, whereas less successful males "just blast away."

Patricelli and other experts will participate in a AAAS Annual Meeting symposium entitled "Beyond the Beagle: Evolutionary Approaches to the Study of Social Behavior," scheduled for Friday, 13 February, 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbus Hall CD. A related press briefing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. CST on the same day. Patricelli offers commentary on her research on a AAAS podcast being made available through EurekAlert!.

Among birds, says Kevin McGraw, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University in Tempe, colors that individuals can see may affect their diet and mate choices. Jan Randall, professor of biology at Stan Francisco State University in California is measuring stress hormone levels in feces samples from desert gerbils and kangaroo rats. David McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, is exploring why unrelated male manakin birds would cooperate to attract females, by singing and dancing together. Female manakins always remember the single best male, he says, so less successful suitors must bask in the reflected glory of the resident hotdog.

The Annual Meeting symposium also will feature Jan Randall, professor of biology, San Francisco State University, California.

The symposium was organized by Jill Mateo of the University of Chicago.


Media Note

Additional information on AAAS Annual Meeting news can be provided in advance to reporters who ensure adherence to the embargo policy. Reporters, please contact Earl Lane or Molly McElroy, (202) 326-6440, or; or Ginger Pinholster, (202) 326-6421,, before 12 February. After 12 February, call (312) 239-4811 to reach the AAAS Annual Meeting Newsroom on-site in the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Acapulco Room, West Tower. Embargoed news will be available to reporters via the AAAS virtual newsroom online at EurekAlert!,, beginning Monday, 9 February. To register as press, credentialed journalists can log onto

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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