11/15/16 Show feat. Kaia Tombak on group adaptation and animal hierarchies


Featured image: A small group of Grevy’s zebras, which might remain together to avoid predators or split apart to find more food for themselves. (Courtesy M. F. Kinnaird)

Kaia Tombak of Princeton’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department was on mic this week to share her expertise on collective behavior in animals. How are groups of animals structured? What environmental factors influence social flexibility in a herd? Kaia studies these questions about group dynamics where two species of zebras co-exist in the Kenyan

A Ugandan red colobus. (Atlas of Science)

savannah, looking at the impact a few genetic differences have on collective behavior. Later, we discuss hierarchies in primate species: how egalitarian are male and female groups? All this, plus stories of running from elephants and a smattering of science news, can be found in this week’s show.

Check out the interview beginning an hour into the show above, and in the meantime here’s some relevant background:

  • Narwhals have amazing abilities of echolocation for finding their way around the Arctic.
  • Of all the emotions, babies have the strongest neurological connection with fear.
  • We now have genetic evidence that European colonization of the Americas uprooted the  immune systems of Native Americans.
  • Kaia’s research goes way beyond Africa: here she is diving with sharks and lasers.

Thanks for listening! The playlist is online at WPRB.com or below.


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