I'm a behavioural ecologist interested in the mechasisms underpining the evolution of animal societies and cooperation. Using both mammalian and avian cooperatively breeding species as biological models, my work aims at identifying the social determinants of fitness as well as the processes involved in cooperative behaviour in a social group. My work is located at the edge between population dynamic modelling, physiology and animal behaviour.
I'm currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town where my main project focuses on the physiological costs of cooperation in the sociable weavers.
Sophie Lardy, PhD
Lardy S, Fortin D, Pays O (2016) Increased exploration capacity promotes group fission in gregarious foraging herbivores. PLoS ONE
Many gregarious species display rapid fission-fusion dynamics with individuals frequently leaving their groups to reunite or to form new ones soon after. The adaptive value of such ephemeral associations might reflect a frequent tilt in the balance between the costs and benefits of maintaining group cohesion. The lack of information on the short-term advantages of group fission, however, hampers our understanding of group dynamics. We investigated the effect of group fission on area-restricted search, a search tactic that is commonly used when food distribution is spatially autocorrelated. Specifically, we determine if roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) improve key aspects of their extensive search mode immediately after fission. We found that groups indeed moved faster and farther over time immediately after than before fission. This gain was highest for the smallest group that resulted from fission, which was more likely to include the fission's initiator. Sex of group members further mediated the immediate gain in search capacity, as post-fission groups moved away at farthest rate when they were only comprised of males. Our study suggests that social conflicts during the extensive search mode can promote group fission and, as such, can be a key determinant of group fission-fusion dynamics that are commonly observed in gregarious herbivores.
Joining a new team
I'm leaving South Africa and the University of Cape Town next September to join the team "Ecologie spatiale des populations" at the CEFE (Montpellier, France).
I will keep working in the Sociable Weaver research group in collaboration with Claire Doutrelant and Rita Covas. For more details about my project, see my research projects page!
Bird of the year 2016!