Juliet Turner

Research Interests

I'm part of a research group that investigates the evolution of social or cooperative behaviours, such as altruism and division of labour. My DPhil specifically focuses on insects, which have over a million described species, comprising over ninety percent of all animal life.

Most of my work so far has involved compiling and analysing information on ants, which are extremely socially complex. This includes information on the type of social behaviours they show, and other aspects of their lifestyle that could be relevant to whether they evolve cooperation.

In ant colonies, the queen is responsible for reproduction and the workers spend their lives supporting her, all completely relying on others to fulfil each of their specific roles. This mutual dependence is the main reason that ant colonies are considered to have undergone a major leap in evolution and can be thought of not just as a group of cooperating individuals, but also as a new type of higher entity – a superorganism.

All ants share fundamental characteristics, but there is huge variation in how these appear. Through investigating this variation we can better understand what drives or constrains the evolution of complexity across biological systems.

I am funded by the ERC and New College's Yeotown Scholarship.

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