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Kelly Stiver


Assistant Professor

Ph.D. McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.

Research Interests:

Evolution of behavior, neurobiology of social behavior, mate choice, cooperation, alternative reproductive strategies.

Current Research:

I study the evolution of complex social behavior, such as cooperation. My recent work has concentrated on how sexual selection, particularly female choice, influences cooperation between males. I also examine how individual variation in reproductive behavior and cooperation relates to physiological variation (e.g. gene expression, circulating hormone levels). While the majority of my research involves two fish species, I occasionally conduct research on human behavior, usually from an evolutionary perspective. I am currently collaborating with Dr. J.A. Camilleri (Westfield State University), examining variation in reproductive strategy and behavior in human males.

Etheostoma olmstedi (the tessellated darter) is native to the eastern United States and south-eastern Canada. Smaller males in this species provide alloparental care to the abandoned eggs of larger males. My research suggests that female mate preferences underlie this cooperative trade-off of nests and eggs between males. Also, tessellated darter males may be more socially complex than previously believed, as they appear to selectively share nest sites with one another on occasion.

Sympodus ocellatus(the ocellated wrasse) is native to the Mediterranean and has a complex breeding system. Males engage in one of three alternative reproductive tactics: parental males guard nests and care for eggs, satellite males help parental males guard but do not provide care, and sneaker males neither guard nor care, but attempt to sneak fertilization in nests. I study cooperation between parental males and satellites, attempting to uncover the physiological correlates that underlie the cooperative and aggressive behavior they show in their interactions. My work has shown that both satellite and parental males benefit by cooperating with one another, but that satellites will "cheat" on this cooperation very quickly when the parental male cannot control him through aggression. This work is in collaboration with Dr. S.H. Alonzo (Yale University), and Dr. H. Hofmann (University of Texas at Austin). 

First-author publications:

Stiver, K.A., & Alonzo, S.H. (In press). Sperm competition risks underlie the costs and benefits of cooperation between males with alternative reproductive tactics. American Naturalist.

Stiver, K.A., Wolff, S.H., Alonzo, S.H. (2012). Adoption and cuckoldry lead to alloparental care in the tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi), a non-group-living species with no evidence of nest site limitation. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

Stiver, K.A., & Alonzo, S.H. (2011). Alloparental care increases mating success. Behavioral Ecology, 22, 206-211.

 Stiver, K.A., & Alonzo, S.H. (2010). Large males have a mating advantage in a species of darter with smaller, allopaternal males (Etheostoma olmstedi). Current Zoology, 56, 1-5.

Stiver, K.A., & Alonzo, S.H. (2009). Parental and mating effort: Is there necessarily a trade-off? Invited review. Ethology, 115, 1101-1126.

Stiver, K.A., Fitzpatrick, J.L., Desjardins, J.K. & Balshine, S. (2009). Mixed parentage in Neolamprologus pulcher groups. Journal of Fish Biology, 74, 1129-1135.

Stiver, K.A., Fitzpatrick, J.L., Desjardins, J.K., Neff, B.D., Quinn, J.S. & Balshine, S. (2008). The role of genetic relatedness among social mates in a cooperative breeder. Behavioral Ecology,19, 816-823.

Stiver, K.A., Desjardins, J.K., Fitzpatrick, J.L., Neff, B.D., Quinn, J.S. & Balshine, S. (2007). Evidence for age and sex specific dispersal in a cooperatively breeding fish. Molecular Ecology,16, 2974-2984.

Stiver, K.A., Fitzpatrick, J.L., Desjardins, J.K. & Balshine, S. (2006). Rates of territory joining and inheritance in a cooperatively breeding fish. Animal Behaviour, 71, 449-456.

Stiver, K.A., Gibbs, H.L., Dierkes, P., Taborsky, M. & Balshine, S. (2005). Relatedness and helping in fish: testing the theoretical predictions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B, 272, 1593-1599.

Stiver, K.A., Dierkes, P., Taborsky, M. & Balshine, S. (2004). Dispersal patterns and status change in a cooperatively breeding fish: evidence from microsatellite analyses and behavioural observations. Journal of Fish Biology,65, 91-105.