St Cross Seminar: Lorenzo Santorelli


Date and time:  23 February 2012, 6.00 - 7.30pm

Venue:  St Cross Room, St Cross College, Oxford

Title: Cooperation, Altruism and Cheating in Micro-organisms

Abstract: While discussions of cooperation and conflict are common in the study of animal and human societies, only within the last few decades we have realized that these acts also occur in more primitive, microscopic forms of life, such as amoebae or bacteria.
The field of Sociobiology explains and investigates how social behaviour has resulted from evolution. Major focus is now aimed at extrapolating genetic and other experimental evidence from model studies on micro-organisms and insect societies to apply to human cooperation via research on economic-based game theory and evolutionary psychology.  Unlike human societies, microbes are incapable of defining complex rules, laws, traditions and morals, yet they still manage to harbor social interactions in many different contexts, such as the division of labour, communication and kin recognition. Studying micro-organisms has given us an insight of what can be the genetic basis of many social behaviours and how cooperation can be stable even in the face of selfishness and cheating.

Bio: Dr. Lorenzo Santorelli is a research fellow in the Zoology department. For his research, Dr. Santorelli uses an interdisciplinary approach involving evolutionary biology, genetics, and molecular biology. He is interested in investigating the evolution of cooperative behaviors of macro and microorganisms. His current projects involve using genetic and molecular methods to investigate cheating behavior in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a social bacteria that can infect humans. By selecting and modifying certain genes that are responsible for communication between these bacteria, Dr. Santorelli is trying to understand how these changes can affect their behaviour and, consequently, virulence in human infection.  His previous research findings have been published several times in Nature and other top tier journals and have also received media coverage.

Further information: Booking required.  This talk will be followed by a drinks reception and a dinner, and is open to all. However, those wishing to attend either the talk or dinner must email

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