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Luke McNally

PhD student

Luke McNally

Member of the Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research & Complex Ecological and Evolutionary Systems & Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology Group

Research Interests

I am interested in social evolution in the broadest sense. Generally my research focuses on questions of how the optimal behaviour of a given individual is affected by the behaviour of those around them. I approach these questions using a variety of modelling techniques including analytical modelling, simulation models and artificial neural networks. I am also generally interested in most areas of ecology and evolution, particularly: phylogenetics, speciation, delineation of species, behavioural ecology and population biology.

PhD project: The evolution, maintenance and consequences of social behaviour

My project focuses on the investigation of the commonalities and differences in the evolution, maintenance and consequences of social behaviour across all levels of biological organisation. Some aspects of the evolution of social behaviours clearly act across all levels of organisation, such as genetic structuring (i.e. kin selection), while others will apply to certain taxa or differ greatly between taxa, such as reciprocity and communication. I aim to address particular questions regarding the evolution of social behaviour at certain levels of organisation or taxonomic groups, with an end goal of compiling commonalities and differences in the evolution of social behaviour across nature.

My current research questions are:

How does demography and genetic assortment affect the evolution of sex?
How does temporal change interact with life history to shape patterns of sex in nature?
Do problems of perception provide a selective advantage for sex?
When is signalling useful in the regulation of social behaviour?
Why should microorganisms use multiple signals to regulate their social behaviour?
How does demography and genetic assortment affect the evolution of social learning?
How do selection pressures acting on decisions of who to cooperate with and when affect the evolution of intelligence?

Conferences attended

SMB 2010: Cooperation and the evolution of intelligence, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (oral presentation)

MMEE 2009: The effect of density-dependent nest destruction on the sex ratios of green turtles on Ascension Island, Bristol, UK. (poster)

Peer-reviewed publications

McNally, L., Brown, S.P. & Jackson, A.L. 2012. Cooperation and the evolution of intelligence. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 279, 3027-3034. doi (Open Access). Associated media coverage: Discovery News, Science News & Live Science.

Carolan, J.C., Murray, T.E., Fitzpatrick, U., Crossley, J., Schmidt, H., Cederberg, B., McNally, L., Paxton, R.J., Williams, P.H. & Brown, M.J.F. Colour Patterns do not diagnose species: quantitative evaluation of a DNA barcoded cryptic bumblebee complex. PLoS ONE, 7(1), e29251. doi

Other publications

McNally, L. & Tanner, C.J. 2011. Flexible strategies, forgiveness, and the evolution of generosity in one-shot encounters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(44), e971. doi (this is a letter commenting on Delton et al. 2011)


Mail: Zoology Building, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
Email:, Fax: + 353 1 6778094


Last updated 16 July 2012 by