Dr Jason Bruck

Marie Curie Research Fellow

SOI 2.19
tel. +441334463459

I focus on the interplay of evolution, cognition and sociality in animals. Specifically I examine how complex social systems in cetaceans, primates and other vertebrates drive the evolution of complex learning and memory skills. Animals with fluid, complex social dynamics have a greater need to remember many social partners over unpredictable lengths of time. Therefore animals with complex social systems like humans, dolphins, chimps, elephants, corvids and some parrots for example should display something called long-term social recognition, which allows them to remember many social partners, sometimes for life. We then test species with simpler social dynamics on conspecific recognition tests to see if they have more limited social cognition. Overall, social memory, may prove to be a key to the evolution of generalized cognitive skills like puzzle solving, tool use and even language-like communication.


My Ph.D. work with dolphins identified the first example of life-long social recognition in a non-human animal. Dolphins can remember the signature whistles (individualized acoustic labels) of former tank-mates even after 20.5 years of separation. To date, only humans and dolphins have been systematically shown to have this type of memory, but other socially complex species are likely to follow.


In addition to social memory I also focus on questions related to communication and signal meaning in non-human species and I am currently interested in the representational nature of signature whistles. 




Stewart, J, Moore, ME, Forshee, JL, Boyles, K, Harmon, MG, Bruck, JN & French, DP 2017, 3D-printed fish models for testing guppy mate choice. in K McMahon (ed.), Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching: Proceedings for the 39th Workshop/Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE), June 13-16, 2017. vol. 38, 19, Association for Biology Laboratory Education, USA, 39th Association for Biology Laboratory Education Meeting (ABLE), Madison, United States, 13/06/17.
Bruck, JN, Allen, NA, Brass, KE, Horn, BA & Campbell, P 2017, 'Species differences in egocentric navigation: the effect of burrowing ecology on a spatial cognitive trait in mice' Animal Behaviour, vol 127, pp. 67-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.02.023
Bruck, JN 2013, 'Decades-long social memory in bottlenose dolphins' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol 280, no. 1768. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1726
Bruck, JN & Mateo, JM 2010, 'How habitat features shape ground squirrel (Urocitellus beldingi) navigation' Journal of comparative psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983), vol 124, no. 2, pp. 176-86. DOI: 10.1037/a0019147