Mary Jane West-Eberhard, Escuela de Biologia, Universidad de Costa Rica, Cuidad Universitaria, Costa Rica

My primary interest is in the social biology and evolution of social wasps, especially tropical species from nest-sharing casteless species to highly specialized swarming ones. Branching off from this, I have written on kin selection, social and sexual selection, evolutionary aspects of animal communication, and developmental plasticity in relation to evolution, and continue to be interested in these topics. I have just finished writing a book on developmental plasticity and evolution, an interest that began with the ontogeny of social roles in wasps, and led, through studies of alternative phenotypes (caste polyphenisms, and polymorphisms), to analysis of the role of condition-sensitive switches in structuring development in general. This has necessitated showing how environmental induction can take the lead in genetical evolution, and to a broad synthesis of principles of plasticity with the genetic theory of evolution. The book outlines general principles, analyses types of transitions, considers alternative phenotypes as a phase of evolution, and shows the relevance of all this to major topics in evolutionary biology (chapters on gradualism, homology, environmental induction, speciation, radiation, macroevolution, punctuation, sex etc.).

Selected recent publications:

National Academy of Sciences Member Profile:

SFI-Social Insect Page