Evolutionary Biology of Learning and Memory
Learning allows an animal to develop, within its lifetime, an adaptive response to a completely novel environment. The ability to learn is thus one of the top achievements of evolution. Although almost all animals have a nervous system and are capable of some forms of learning, the complexity of the nervous system and learning behaviors vary enormously. How this diversity has evolved, and why "intelligent" behavior developed in some taxa and not others, are one of the most exciting open questions in the evolution of animal kingdom. Yet, our understanding of factors and processes governing the evolution of learning is rudimentary. While fitness benefits of learning are relatively well understood, we know little about costs of learning, constraints on its evolution, and the nature of heritable variation on which natural selection can act. As with any fitness-related trait, knowledge of these aspects is essential for understanding why, how, and when improved learning ability evolves. With our research we aim to contribute to filling this gap in our knowledge.
The questions we address include:
- How readily and under what circumstances can an improved learning ability and better memory evolve?
- What is the nature of heritable variation for these traits?
- What are the costs of improved learning ability?
- How does learning ability interact with the evolution of the innate components of behavior?
- What is the relationship between the loss of memory with age and other aspects of aging?
We address these questions using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a study organism. Fruit flies are capable of a variety of forms of learning. Their short generation time and small size allows us to study in "real time" evolutionary changes occurring in experimental populations in response to controlled selection regimes ("experimental evolution"). Furthermore, the genetic tools available for this species and knowledge of its neurobiology allow us to take an interdisciplinary approach, combining behavioral, neurobiological, genetic and genomic approaches within an evolutionary framework.
- Dr. Brian Hollis (co-supervisé avec le Prof. L. Keller)
- Dr. Roger Craig Stillwell
- Dr. Roshan Vijendravarma
Former group members
- Aurélie Babin
- Joep Burger
- Cindy Burger
- Dana Fell
- Ute Friedrich
- Géraldine Mudavadi
- Virgnie Népoux
- Juliette Pont
- Frida Rosengren
- Vukasin Zrelec