The New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology
Department of Anthropology New York University
MBChB 2006, University of Cape Town, South Africa B.Sc. 2007, University of Cape Town, South Africa M.A. 2009, New York University M.Phil. 2010, New York University
My research is primarily concerned with the evolutionary ecology of personality variation in primates. Stable individual differences in behavior have long been studied from a neurobiological and genetic perspective in humans and captive nonhuman primates, and a large heritable component to variation in many traits is now well established. Until recently, however, questions regarding the ultimate causes of this variation within populations remained neglected. The last decade has seen a rapid increase in theoretical and empirical attention directed towards investigating the evolutionary bases of personality variation across a wide range of animal taxa. As it has become apparent that personality traits can have substantial fitness consequences in natural populations, maintenance of the genetic variation underlying these traits in humans and other animals has emerged as major question in evolutionary biology.
The specific focus of my dissertation research is the behavioral ecology of individual differences along two personality dimensions, boldness and sociability, in wild vervet monkeys. I am currently investigating the effects of boldness and sociability on individuals’ behavior in different functional contexts. The primary ecological context that my project focuses on is social foraging – looking at where individuals forage in relation to the rest of their group-mates, and whether personality influences whether they spend a greater proportion of their foraging time “scrounging” (joining actively feeding neighbors in food patches) or “producing” (entering and feeding in new food patches that they have discovered). I am, however, also investigating relationships between personality variation and behavior in other contexts, such as mating, parenting, agonism, and position during group progressions.
Some of my primary research questions are:
· What is the relationship between boldness and social foraging strategy?
· Is boldness related to within-group spatial position during foraging and during group progressions?
· Are social foraging strategy and within-group spatial position associated?
· Are an individual’s social network metrics related to its social foraging strategy?
· How are each of these variables related to sex, age, dominance rank and female reproductive state?
2008. Vaughan CL, Blaszczyk MB. Dynamic similarity predicts gait parameters for Homo floresiensis and the Laetoli hominins. American Journal of Human Biology 20(3): 312-316.
2007. Blaszczyk MB, Vaughan CL. Re-interpreting the evidence for bipedality in Homo floresiensis: research letter. South African Journal of Science 103: 409-414.