Dr Luke Rendell
MASTS Reader in Biology
"The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living"
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez
I am a Reader in Biology supported by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS). I am affiliated with the Scottish Ocean Institute, Sea Mammal Research Unit, the Centre for Biological Diversity, the Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, and the Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences.
I have broad research interests, largely centred around the evolution of learning, behaviour and communication, with a special focus on marine mammals.
Nick A.R. Jones, Mike Webster, Christopher N. Templeton, Stefan Schuster, Luke Rendell (2018) Presence of an audience and consistent interindividual differences affect archerfish shooting behaviour. Animal Behaviour DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.04.024
In this study we investigated whether archerfish display any behavioural changes in response to the presence of an audience while using their specialized foraging tactic of spitting precisely aimed jets of water at prey targets. We found that in the presence of another fish, archerfish took longer to shoot, made more orientations (aiming events) per shot, and tended to be closer to the target at the time of shooting. Our results show that archerfish are sensitive to, and adjust their shooting behaviour in response to, the presence of an audience and highlight the importance of social context in this fish species.
The ability to build progressively on the achievements of earlier generations is central to human uniqueness, but experimental investigations of this cumulative cultural evolution lack real-world complexity. We studied the dynamics of cumulative culture using a large-scale data set from online collaborative programming competitions run over 14 years. Results showed that cumulative cultural evolution reduces technological diversity over time, as populations focus on refining high-performance solutions. While individual entries borrow from few sources, iterative copying allows populations to integrate ideas from many sources, demonstrating a new form of collective intelligence. Our results imply that maximising technological progress requires accepting high levels of failure.
Our book, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins is even available at Amazon! Hear it discussed on BBC Radio 4's "Start the Week". Listen to a podcast of a discussion between myself and author Phillip Hoare at the LSE Philosophy Forum here
Sperm whale society and ecology
I have been studying the ecology, communication and societies of sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, showing how long lasting social groups use distinctive vocal dialects that appear to be culturally transmitted. Part of this work is my involvement in running the Balearics Sperm Whale Project and as a collaborator of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project.
Culture in whales and dolphins
In whales and dolphins we find examples of both complex communication and apparently widespread social learning, a simple form of culture. I am using statistical models to assess the evidence for social learning in wild cetaceans.
I also use evolutionary simulation models to understand how these processes like social learning might have evolved, and how they might be related to the evolution of other kinds of behaviour, such as cooperation and niche-construction.
Human social learning
I use experimental approaches to understand how we negotiate the trade-offs involved in deciding whether to use social information to make simple decisions, as a window into how we have evolved to make best use of our cultural inheritance.
East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study (ECOMMAS)
We are deploying passive listening buoys along the Scottish coastline in collaboration with Marine Scotland Science to monitor the impact of coastal windfarm development and also to give insight into acoustic behaviour of marine mammals.
Science without borders!
Dr Charlotte Dunn finished her PhD "Insights into Blainville's Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) communication" in January 2015
Dr Ricardo Antunes completed his PhD, co-supervised with Phil Hammond and Jonathan Gordon, and titled "Variation in sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) coda vocalizations and social structure in the North Atlantic Ocean" in March 2009
50 (of 93 published available)
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Science 2019 vol.363 pp.1032-1034
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences vol.374
Marine Ecology Progress Series 2019 vol.609 pp.257-270
Nature Communications 2019 vol.10
Nature Communications 2018 vol.9
Animal Behaviour 2018 vol.145 pp.131-140
Animal Behaviour 2018 vol.141 pp.95-103
Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2018 vol.22 pp.651-665
Biology Letters 2018 vol.14
Ecological Indicators 2018 vol.85 pp.128-136
Music & Science 2018 vol.1
Zoology 2018 vol.128 pp.1-15
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol.142 pp.863-877
Marine Mammal Science 2017 vol.33 pp.356-364
Scientific Reports vol.7
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol.141 pp.900-907
Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2017 vol.32 pp.625-626
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2017 vol.114 pp.7822-7829
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol.142 pp.460-472
PeerJ 2016 vol.4 pp.1-38
Royal Society Open Science 2016 vol.3
Royal Society Open Science 2016 vol.3
Ecological Indicators 2016 vol.70 pp.67-76
Nature Communications 2015 vol.6
Aquatic Mammals 2015 vol.41 pp.252-255
Endangered Species Research 2014 vol.23 pp.241-252
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2014 vol.24 pp.31-40
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2014 vol.24 pp.23-30
Behavioral Ecology 2014 vol.25 pp.257-258
Current Biology 2013 vol.23 pp.R736-R740
2013 vol.1 pp.154-158
Bioacoustics 2013 vol.22 pp.153-163
Science 2013 vol.340 pp.485-488
Review of General Psychology 2012 vol.16 pp.121-133
Behavior Genetics 2012 vol.42 pp.332-343
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2012 vol.92 pp.1799-1808
Learning and Motivation 2012 vol.43 pp.241-246
International Journal of Primatology 2012 vol.33 pp.1142-1164
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences 2012 vol.279 pp.653-662
Advances in Complex Systems 2012 vol.15 pp.1-17
Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2011 vol.15 pp.68-76
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences 2011 vol.366 pp.1118-1128
Contact Details:Dr Luke Rendell
Harold Mitchell Building
University of St Andrews
tel: 01334 463499
Sea Mammal Research Unit
Centre for Social Learning & Cognitive Evolution
School of Biology
Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences
IBANS Animal Cognition
Biology Teaching: PG Student Staff Consultative Committee
Centre for Biological Diversity
Scottish Oceans Institute
Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland
Biology Postgraduate Teaching Committee
The Sir John Templeton Foundation
Biology Ethics Committee
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Scottish Oceans Institute
Institiud Chuantan na h-Alba
Gatty Marine Laboratory
East Sands St Andrews
tel: +44 (0) 1334 463472
fax: +44 (0) 1334 463443