Session 1, Abstract 5


Onyekachi Okolo* and Isabel Regoli (Brody Sandel and Janice Edgerly-Rooks), Department of Biology, Santa Clara University

Silk spinning distinguishes the insect order Embioptera. Silk, produced in glands in their front tarsi, is used to build protective coverings. As they step around their bodies with their front feet, multiple strands are released during domicile construction. Variation in the use of silk exists, especially related to different microenvironments; leaf litter species rely more on substrate for protection when, in contrast, arboreal species depend on thick silk to gain protection from rain and natural enemies. Previous studies in our lab have detected phylogenetic signal in spin-step frequencies and the probability of transition from one spin-step to the next, but to date, the long sequences that characterize their spinning behavior have not been explored. Each individual can express 28 possible spin-steps, which are repeated in sequences without much variation by individual females. A useful analogy is that their spin-step sequences are more like musical verses or symphonic movements: variations occur but long series of musical notes repeat in recognizable themes. We ask: do species have stereotypical and species-specific sequences? And do these sequences reflect phylogenetic relationships? In recent years, a variety of studies have looked into the analysis of behavioral sequences to explore the evolution of behavior. Unfortunately, these studies typically analyze short sequences of few behavioral acts and do not provide guidance on how to work with long sequences. For this presentation, we will present different methods, gleaned from fields outside of behavioral biology, as possible approaches for analyzing long sequences of behavior.

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