Andrew Gersick

Animal Behaviorist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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I study the impacts of social and physical environments on the evolution of animal communication systems. In the Rubenstein Lab I will be investigating the role of multimodal signals in competitive and affiliative relationships among zebras and other equids. In my fieldwork with spotted hyenas (with Drs Dorothy Cheney, Kay Holekamp and Robert Seyfarth in the Masai Mara, Kenya), I found that long-distance “whoop” vocalizations help hyenas coordinate collective responses to threats from lions, despite a fission-fusion social system that disperses hyena clans over territories that can be up to 1000 km2. In aviary work with brown-headed cowbirds (with Dr. David White), I studied how males’ courtship strategies and courtship songs respond to changes in the social complexity of flocks and the intensity of male-male competition. Ultimately I’m interested in how the survival strategies, social structures and communication systems of different species (including humans) all shape one another over evolutionary time.