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Research Fellows Directory

Susanne Shultz

Dr Susanne Shultz

Research Fellow


University of Manchester

Research summary

My current research interests focus on the evolution of behavioural complexity and flexibility with the ultimate goal to understand the adaptive benefits and evolutionary pathways driving changes in cognitive architecture across primates and other vertebrates. There are several parallel themes to this research program.

The first is investigating evolutionary trends in brain size and architecture. Despite brain tissue being metabolically costly, relative brain size has increased over evolutionary time across mammalian taxa. Using a comparative approach, we test explicit adaptive hypotheses for the evolution of brain size and architecture. The second theme is to develop and use network theory to evaluate social complexity through measures of stability and structuring in animal populations. We are currently developing this approach by assessing responses across ecological gradients. Equids are the current model system, due to the availability of data across wide ecological gradients, but the objective is to extend these analyses to evaluate variation in primate network structure. The third theme is to understand macroevolutionary trends in social behaviour using Bayesian and comparative approaches. Recent work has reconstructed major evolutionary transitions in sociality in primates and related these patterns to ecology and morphology. A fourth theme is exploring the physiological basis for behavioural variation both at the individual and species level. Finally, I am supervising projects that evaluate how species characteristics affect their sensitivity to environmental change.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Understanding species sensitivity and resilience to environmental change

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Jan 2018 - Dec 2020

Value: £337,017.05

Incorporating historical processes in behavioural and brain evolution

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Jan 2013 - Dec 2017

Value: £449,245.17

Using network analysis to identify variation in vertebrate social structure

Scheme: Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

Dates: Apr 2009 - Dec 2012

Value: £393,600.20