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VIMS professor to discuss groundbreaking discovery

Professor Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) will explore his discovery of the first case of advanced social organization in a marine animal during VIMS’ After Hours lecture on Thursday, October 25. The lecture, the last in the After Hours series for 2012, takes place at 7 p.m. in Watermen’s Hall on the VIMS campus in Gloucester Point.

“Eusociality”—once thought to occur only among ants, bees, and certain other social insects—refers to life in large, cooperative colonies. Duffy discovered the first case of eusociality in a marine animal, the sponge-dwelling Caribbean shrimp Synalpheus regalis, during fieldwork among the coral reefs of Belize. His work revealed that colonies of these small animals, which can number more than 300 individuals, have only a single reproductive female—a “queen” like that of honeybees and ants. He also found that larger members of the colony specialize in defending against intruders using their powerful claws, waging intense battles that sometimes end in death.

During his 45-minute lecture, “The secret social lives of shrimp: cooperation and homeland defense on the reef,” Duffy will provide a detailed description of life inside the colony, and discuss the broader significance of social behavior in the animal kingdom.

Reservations to this free public lecture series are required due to limited space. Register online at, or call 684-7846 for further information.

posted 10.22.2012

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