September 1, 2006 - August 31, 2007
Sergiu Hart (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Avi Shmida (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Our research group will focus on addressing fundamental questions in ecology and evolutionary biology, using the modeling tools of game theory. In particular, the group will examine the topics of the evolution of sexual reproduction, the evolution of communication and signaling, and evolutionary dynamics.
The phenomenon of "warning colours" in poisonous insects, reptiles, and plants is one of the examples that can be used to demonstrate how biology and game theory can interact. Poisonous animals and plants are well known for their conspicuous contrasting colours. This is interpreted as the signal that indicates "I am poisonous, don't eat me". The question is, can we trust this signal? Biologists have studied this topic for decades, attempting to explain why "cheaters" -- non-poisonous animals with conspicuous colours -- are rare. This question will be tackled from a different standpoint, where perhaps the conspicuous animal does not warn its predator, but rather signals it to "come and inspect me". Other investigations will deal with mechanisms that can explain patterns of morphology, systematical and also behavioural, by using game-theoretic models.