Human dispersal across the globe and adaptation to local environments are inextricably associated with the capacity for culture. Culture has not halted human genetic evolution, but has influenced its directions. How biology and culture interact is therefore a central problem in understanding human evolution, dispersal, diversity and health. We seek to tackle key questions about the cultural, behavioural and genetic processes underlying human evolution and diversity through the Centre for the Coevolution of Biology and Culture (CCBC).
The centre facilitates inter-disciplinary research including gene-culture coevolution, evolutionary psychology, behavioural ecology, population genetics and cultural evolution. Our researchers are from anthropology, archaeology, biological sciences, business, mathematics and psychology, from Durham and externally.
Our research interests cover disease, domestication, innovation and social learning, mate choice, cultural diversification, and social systems. Navigate using the left-hand panel to find out more.
CCBC Summer Workshop 2013
This year's workshop will involve presentation and development of new research ideas for collaboration between CCBC members. The workshop is on Monday 8th July 2013. Contact Jeremy Kendal if you'd like to attend.
CCBC Public Seminar Series
CCBC members are giving a public seminar series at the Centre for Life in Newcastle during May 2012. Do sign up to attend this introduction to some of our research interests.
Congratulation to Claudio Tennie
Congratulations to Claudio Tennie for winning a Junior Research Fellowship to work with CCBC members on cumulative cultural evolution in association with the Institute of Advanced Study.
This term, discussion groups will be every other Wednesday, starting 1pm, 1st Feb 2012 in the anthropology common room. If you'd like to attend, please email Jeremy Kendal.
EHBEA 2012 at Durham
CCBC members are organising the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (EHBEA) annual conference, 25-28th March 2012.
Plenary speakers, sponsored by the British Academy, will be:
Leslie Aiello, President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological research
Stuart West, Prof. of evolutionary biology at the University of Oxford
Hanna Kokko, Prof. of evolutionary ecology at Australian National University
Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, Prof. of human behavioural ecology at UC Davis
Ian Penton-Voak, Reader in evolutionary psychology at the University of Bristol
Simon Kirby, Prof. of language evolution at the University of Edinburgh
& there'll be a conference banquet in Durham Castle, so hope to see you there!
EHBEA conference update
The European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association conference programme is now available on the conference website.
Durham University member reduced registration rates available.
The conference is being hosted by Durham University and is running from 25-28th March 2012.
Epiphany term meetings
Happy New Year to you all - this term we'll be meeting every other Friday, starting on the 18th January 2013, at 1-2pm in the Anthropology Seminar Room, Dawson Building.
If you'd like to find out more about the meetings, email email@example.com
Register for this interdisciplinary conference, 19-20th March 2012, in association with the IAS and CCBC. Visiting speakers include Prof. Mike O’Brien (University of Missouri), Prof. Paolo Saviotti (Université Pierre Mendès-France, Grenoble), and Prof. Alex Bentley (Bristol University).
Exaptation, Uncertainty and Technological Change
Prof. Robert Layton is running 2 two day events on 11-12th February 2012 and 19-20th March 2012, funded by the IAS and in association with CCBC. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
11th-12th February 2012 (Saturday and Sunday) Anthropology Seminar Room (Dawson 104)
A 2 day inter-departmental workshop in which representatives from interested departments discuss the concept of exaptation and its application in their fields in a relatively informal fashion, presenting initial position papers for discussion. This workshop will follow up issues raised at a preliminary meeting held during the initial planning stage for events to take place during 2012-13. Participating departments will include: Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Business School and Education, with the possibility of contributions from other schools and departments, including Archaeology, Engineering and Medicine.
19th-20th March (Monday and Tuesday) Dawson Lecture Theatre D 110
A 2 day conference at which departments will present papers suitable for publication stating the contribution their discipline can make to the study of exaptation. Invited speakers will respond with their own assessment of the current state and future prospects for the inter-disciplinary study of exaptation. Departmental papers will be circulated in advance to visiting speakers. Visitors who have confirmed attendance include Prof. Mike O’Brien (University of Missouri), Prof. Paolo Saviotti (Université Pierre Mendès-France, Grenoble), and Prof. Alex Bentley (Bristol University).
Exaptation, Uncertainty and Technological Change
Exaptation, a concept that can be defined as “characters, evolved for other usages (or for no function at all), and later “coopted” for their current role…” (Gould and Vrba 1982), is one of the most important yet little studied mechanisms in the evolution of species, ecosystems and technologies. Exaptation arises from the indefinite, but rarely explicit, range of potential functions of existing objects/ideas (D’Arcy Thompson, 1942). Feathers, for example, were probably selected for thermal insulation and their use in flight was therefore an exaptation. Microwave ovens certainly originated as radar magnetrons. Principles of social organisation such as producer co-operatives have been applied to numerous resources beyond those for which they were first devised.
While the parallels and differences between genetic and cultural evolution have been debated since the start of the 20th century, rigorous analysis only began in the 1970s. Over the past thirty years techniques have been increasingly refined in archaeology, evolutionary psychology and economics but, as yet, they have not been applied to the phenomenon of exaptation. The dynamics of co-evolving technologies, markets and societies are driven by recombinant and exaptive innovation mechanisms. We need to understand how the leap to new function – prior to the adaptational trajectory – can be conceptualized and modelled; the transfer of known techniques and materials to new contexts can effect substantial savings and eliminate risks.
Durham is well-placed to deliver such a programme of research, since an interest in promoting interdisciplinary work in evolutionary processes already exists in Biological Sciences, Anthropology, Archaeology, Education, and the Business School. In particular, the team are keen to explore the following issues: taxonomy, and how terms are used in different subjects; modelling fitness landscapes in the biological and social sciences; comparability of economic/social systems and natural ecosystems; clarifying what qualifies as a genuine exaptation in social organisation; establishing what kind of benefits does cultural exaptation confer, since ‘adaptive’ implies some fitness advantage to the user. The entity must survive and reproduce/be transmitted. What is required to achieve this (in biology: mating, offspring, survival?). What variables affect cultural ‘fitness’?
The project team will address these issues with the support of two IAS Fellows: the economist, Professor Pier Paolo Saviotti and the anthropologist, Professor Michael J O’Brien. The IAS is also supporting a programme of weekly inter-departmental seminars and a conference, which will culminate in the publication of an edited volume.
Definite: an edited volume on exaptation, to be submitted to Cambridge University Press or Routledge.
Probable: interdisciplinary research grant applications.
The seminar and the conference are open to students and academics, but to register and request further information, please contact Professor Bob Layton (email@example.com).
This programme is organised in association with the IAS and the University’s Centre for the Co-evolution of Biology and Culture (CCBC)
Farewell to Alex
Congratulations to Alex Bentley as he takes up his chair of Archaeology at the University of Bristol.
We wish him well in his new post, and hope he makes regular visits back to Durham!
Herding, innovations and tipping points in financial systems
CCBC is co-sponsoring this workshop as part of the Leverhulme Tipping Points grant.
15 July 2011, 08:45 to 17:45, Lindisfarne Suite, St Aidan's College, Durham University. Contact: Alex Bentley
Jamie Tehrani Seminar
23rd January 2013, 13:00 to 14:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study
Journal Club, Autumn term 2012
CCBC journal club will be starting up again in Teaching Week 1, on ***Tuesday 9th October, 12-1pm*** in the Birley Room, Dawson Building, and thereafter every other week at the same time. So do come along if you'd like to discuss empirical and theoretical papers relating to social learning, cultural evolution and gene-culture coevolution (and related topics!). Typically, we take turns to suggest a paper to discuss in the proceeding meeting. All members/non-members welcome.
NOTE: session on 6th Nov, is joint with EARG, discussing the question of causality (ultimate, proximal, reciprocal), and is at 1pm.
Junior Research Fellowship Scheme
1-3 year fellowships available at post-doctoral level. If you'd like to work with CCBC researchers and in affiliation with the Institute of Advance Study, email firstname.lastname@example.org
MSc in Evolutionary Anthropology
This course has been revised and updated to include exciting new modules. Optional modules are as follows:
To sign up, contact email@example.com
PhD position – Social Learning & Science Communication
Applicants are sought for a PhD position, to commence early October 2011, based in the Department of Anthropology, University of Durham and the Centre for Life, Newcastle.
Applications – to include a CV and cover letter - must be received by Wednesday 3rd August via email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Please also arrange for 2 academic references to be sent to the same email address by the deadline or as soon as possible thereafter.
Rachel Kendal Seminar
Rachel will be giving a seminar on Wednesday 29th Feb, 1pm in the Birley Room, Dawson Building, on
"Social Learning Strategies and Cumulative Cultural Evolution"
ROYAL SOCIETY – NEWTON INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIPS
Post-doc opportunity to work with CCBC:
This scheme enables early-stage postdoctoral researchers from all over the world to work at UK research institutions for a period of two years. Funding consists of £24,000 per annum for subsistence costs, up to £8,000 per annum for research expenses and a one-off payment of up to £2,000 for relocation costs. The two-year Fellowships cover the broad range of the physical, natural or social sciences or humanities. Deadline: 16 April 2012
"Tipping points and the spread of buzzwords, labels and ideas".
2-3rd July 2012, Durham University: REGISTRATION IS FULL.
Submit abstracts by Mon. 2nd April 2012 to <span ><span >Pojanath.Bhatanacharoen@durham.ac.uk
Download details (see below news items)
<p >I would like to invite you to give a paper at the diffusion of ideas,
<p >labels and buzzwords conference (see attached flyer) which will be held <p >on 2-3 July 2012 in Durham. This conference is the launch event for a <p >Leverhulme project which is looking at tipping points and the agency in <p >metaphors, but the intention is that the conference will deal with a <p >range of broader issues of how ideas diffuse and spread through <p >populations. The conference will be small and is by necessity invite <p >only (there will be no general call for papers) - so if you have any <p >colleagues whom you work with or might fit with the conference, please <p >pass their names and contact details along, and we will do our best to <p >invite them as well, constraints allowing. Following the conference, <p >depending on the contributions, I would anticipate publishing an edited <p >volume of the interdisciplinary papers. <p >
<p >The conference will begin in the morning on Monday 2 July, ending in the <p >afternoon on the Tuesday 3 July. We can offer you accommodation, as <p >well as the cost of a standard class return rail ticket to Durham. There <p >will be a conference dinner on the evening of 2 July. There is no <p >conference fee. We have set the deadline for abstracts at 2 April 2012, <p >but if you plan to attend can you send Pojanath Bhatanacharoen <p >(<span >Pojanath.Bhatanacharoen@durham.ac.uk) an indication of your intention <p >as soon as you can - this will help us with planning and organization.
Welcome to Alex Mesoudi
We are very pleased that Alex has joined the Anthropology department and CCBC, taking up a readership. Alex's website is here.
Welcome to Thom Scott-Phillips
Thom is taking up an Addison Wheeler Fellowhip in the Department of Anthropology - we look forward to working with him!
CCBC Summer Meeting: 30th June 2011, 1-5pm, Anthropology common Room.
Seminar: Tom Morgan, Laland Lab, St Andrews. Cultural transmission biases in humans. 20th June 2011, 2pm, Anthropology seminar room.
Workshop: Centre for Iranian Cultural Studies first workshop on June 6th 2011: 'From Human Niche Construction to Imperial Power: The Next Step in the Study of Ancient Iranian Water Systems'.
Theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. on Human Niche Construction, 27th March 2011.
Seminar: Counting coconuts for the chief: coevolution in language and culture
Fiona Jordan (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics). 4th May 2011.
Congratulations! £427K NERC grant ‘Reconsidering Austronesian Homeland and dispersal models using genetic and morphological signatures of domestic animals’
Caroline Walters is starting an interdisciplinary PhD scholarship to investigate cultural influences on disease and health-related behaviour (start Oct 2010).
Workshop: ‘Archaeological Phylogenies Clinic’ organised by Tehrani and Arroyo-Kalin to develop cultural phylogenetics projects using archaeological datasets (May 2010).
Workshop: ‘Darwinising Folklore Workshop’ organised by Tehrani and M. Smith to develop AHRC grant proposal on evolution of folktales and folk music with British-based ethnomusicologists and folklorists (June 2010)
Workshop: ‘The Spread of Disease with Farming in Neolithic Europe’ (organised by Chris Scarre & Jeremy Kendal).
Workshop: ‘Interdisciplinary view of Plague in rural and urban Europe’ (organized by Rus Hoelzel)
Workshop: “The influence of visual media on physical attraction: cross-cultural studies” (organised by Lynda Boothroyd)
Workshop: Agent-based modelling workshop on hominoid foraging strategies (organised by Bob Layton)
Workshop: ‘Innovation versus Invention in the Creative Industries’ – workshop combining biological, economics, media and anthropological perspsectives, co-sponsored by CCI (ARC Centre), Queensland University of Technology. Organised by Alex Bentley.
CCBC co-director Alex Bentley will be leading one of the five working sections on this 5-year project to study Tipping Points in economic
and environmental systems.
Using phylogenetic analysis, Jamie Tehrani has discovered ancient origins of fairy tale evolution. The work, presented at the British Science Festival, has been widely reported.
CCBC has been awarded a substantial seed-corn fund from Durham University to develop interdisciplinary grant applications through 2009-10.
Contact DetailsDurham University
Tel. +44 (0)191 334 1630