Ashleigh Griffin

Ashleigh Griffin

Tutor in Biological Sciences; Professor of Evolutionary Biology
Biological Sciences
BSc PhD Edin


    I am a biologist because I’ve never lost my childlike curiosity about the natural world. I specialise in evolutionary biologist with a special interest in adaptation, which means I spend time mainly thinking about why living things are the way they are, rather than how they work.
    1990-94 BSc Zoology (Edinburgh)
    1995-98 PhD project on social behaviour of Meerkats in the Kalahari desert
    2003-2017 Royal Society Research Fellowships
    2014 Appointed Tutorial fellow in Biological Sciences/Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Department of Zoology
    Since my PhD, I have taken four years career break to care for my two children, and I worked part-time for an additional five years. Even though my children are grown up now, there is always a lot going on in my life apart from being an academic!

    Research Interests

    I am interested in the evolution of cooperative behaviour because it poses a special problem for evolutionary theory - how can selection favour a behaviour that reduces reproductive success? The question is important, not just so we can gain an insight into striking examples such as colonies of social insects or meerkat groups, but because it is fundamental to understanding life as we know it: the evolution of the genome, the eukaryotic cell and multicellular organisms.
    My current projects fall into two main categories:
    • The application of social evolution theory to understand clinical problems of bacterial infection.
    • The use of comparative analyses to test predictions of social evolution theory in cooperative breeding birds and mammals
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    Selected Major Publications:

    • Bruce JB, GA Cooper, H Chabas, SA West, AS Griffin (2017) Cheating and resistance to cheating in natural populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens. Evolution.
    • Caro, S, SA West, AS Griffin (2017) Sibling conflict and dishonest signaling in birds. PNAS 113 (48), 13803-13808.
    • Cornwallis CK, CA Botero, DR Rubenstein, PA Downing, SA West, AS Griffin (2017) Cooperation facilitates the colonisation of harsh environments. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, 0057.
    • Downing, PA, CK Cornwallis, AS Griffin (2017) How to make a sterile helper. BioEssays 39 (1).
    • Andersen, S, RL Marvig, S Molin, H Krogh Johansen, AS Griffin (2015) Long-term social dynamics drive loss of function in pathogenic bacteria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, 10756.
    • Cornwallis, CK, SA West, K Davis, AS Griffin (2010) Promiscuity and the evolutionary transition to complex societies. Nature 466, 969-972.
    • Griffin, AS, SA West, A Buckling (2004) Cooperation and competition in pathogenic bacteria. Nature 430, 1024-1027.
    • Griffin, AS, SA West (2003) Kin discrimination and the benefit of helping in cooperatively breeding vertebrates. Science 302, 634-636.
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