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Dr Alex Thornton

Dr Alex Thornton

Associate Professor in Cognitive Evolution

 01326 255081

 Daphne du Maurier DDM 3059

 

Daphne du Maurier Building, University of Exeter,  Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

 Office hours:

Monday: 10-11

Tuesday: 10-11

My research group website can be found at www.wildcognitionresearch.com.

We seek to understand how the challenges faced by animals (including humans) in their natural environments shape their mental processes, how the ability to learn from others affects the behaviour of individuals and groups, and how culture itself evolves.

We incorporate approaches from evolutionary biology, psychology and anthropology and work on a range of different study systems. Our current work focuses on cognition and behaviour in wild jackdaws and the cognitive requirements of cumulative culture in humans.

I am a member of the Behaviour research group and the Human Biological and Cultural Evolution group.

Qualifications

2007 PhD Zoology, University of Cambridge
2003 BA (Hons), University of Oxford

Career

2018 - present Associate Professor in Cognitive Evolution, Exeter

2015 - 2018 Senior Lecturer, Exeter

2012-2015 BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellow, Exeter
2010-2012 BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellow, Cambridge
2007-2010 Pembroke College Research Fellow, Cambridge
2003-2007 PhD, Cambridge

Links

Alex Thornton with a meerkat in the Kalahari Desert

Alex Thornton with a meerkat in the Kalahari Desert

Research

Research interests

For further details of my research please visit my group website at: www.wildcognitionresearch.com.

My research uses a comparative approach to investigate two of the most important issues in behavioural biology: the evolution of intelligence and the biological origins of culture. The vast majority of work on these topics has been conducted on captive animals and so tells us little about the selective pressures operating in natural populations. In contrast, I use a variety of experimental, observational and statistical techniques to understand the factors driving cognitive evolution and cultural information transmission in the wild. Much of my research has been conducted on cooperatively breeding meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. More recently, I have set up set up nest-box populations of wild jackdaws near Cambridge and the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus outside Falmouth. These corvids share many key features with primates, including large brains, complex social systems and extended periods of development, and consequently provide a highly tractable system for studies of the cognitive evolution. My current research focuses on five main areas:

  1. The role of sociality in driving cognitive evolution
  2. The causes and consequences of individual variation in cognitive ability
  3. The effects of social learning on individual and group behaviour
  4. Collective behaviour in heterogeneous groups
  5. The cognitive foundations of cumulative culture

Research projects

The Cornish Jackdaw Project
Corvids (crows, rooks, jackdaws, jays and magpies) have brains of a similar size to chimpanzees (relative to the size of their bodies) and are famed for their sophisticated cognitive abilities. However, as almost all research has been conducted in captivity, we have little idea of the factors that favoured the evolution of corvid cognition in nature. Studies of corvids in their natural environment are essential to allow us to better understand cognitive evolution in the animal kingdom. The Cornish Jackdaw Project is a  dedicated, long-term field site for the study of corvid cognition. Jackdaws are highly sociable, inquisitive corvids, making them ideal subjects for cognitive research. They also have the practical advantage over other corvid species that they will take to nest boxes, so they can be easily monitored. Read more about the Cornish Jackdaw Project here, or follow us on twitter @CornishJackdaws.

Kalahari Meerkat Project
The Kalahari Meerkat Project, run by Tim Clutton-Brock and Marta Manser is a long-term research project comprising multiple groups of individually recognisable, habituated meerkats. My research at the project has examined social learning and development, the evolution of teaching and the establishment of traditions. You can learn more about this work, and about cultural evolution in general, here.

Collaborative work

I have been fortunate enough to collaborate on some great projects with fantastic people. Recent collaborations include work with Lucy Aplin and colleagues on conformity and culture in great tits and Ben Ashton and Mandy Ridley at the University of Western Australia on sociality and cognition in Australian Magpies.

 

Research grants

2017 Human Frontiers Research Program (PI)
Collective behaviour and information transmission in heterogeneous societies

2015 ESRC (PI)
The cognitive requirements of cumulative culture: experiments with typically developing and autistic people

2014 BBSRC (Co-I)
The social dynamics of cultural behaviour

2014 Australian Research Council (Co-I)
The benefits of sociality: cooperation, cognition and fitness in Australian magpies

2010 BBSRC
David Phillips Research Fellowship: The evolution of corvid intelligence

2010 British Ecological Society
BES Research Grant

2006 Cambridge Philosophical Society
Studentship

Research networks

Katherine McAuliffe, Boston College

Neeltje Boogert, Exeter

Nichola Raihani, UCL

Amanda Ridley, University of Western Australia

Nicholas Ouellette, Stanford

Richard Vaughan, Simon Fraser University

Nicky Clayton, Cambridge

Tim Clutton-Brock, Cambridge

Marta Manser, Zurich

Will Hoppitt, Leeds

Kevin Laland, St Andrews

Lucy Aplin, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

Dieter Lukas, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

 

Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year

Key publications


Ashton BJ, Ridley AR, Edwards EK, Thornton A (2018). Cognitive performance is linked to group size and affects fitness in Australian magpies. Nature, 554, pages 364-367. Full text.
Zwirner E, Thornton A (2015). Cognitive requirements of cumulative culture: teaching is useful but not essential. Sci Rep, 5 Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cockburn A, Thornton A, Sheldon BC (2015). Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds. Nature, 518(7540), 538-541. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Phalan B, Thornton A (2014). Comparative cognition for conservationists. Trends Ecol Evol, 29(9), 489-495. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Lukas D (2012). Individual variation in cognitive performance: developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 367(1603), 2773-2783. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Samson J (2012). Innovative problem solving in wild meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 83(6), 1459-1468. Abstract.

Publications by category


Journal articles

Greggor AL, McIvor GE, Clayton NS, Thornton A (In Press). Contagious risk taking: social information and context influence wild jackdaws' responses to novelty and risk. Sci Rep, 6 Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Ashton BJ, Thornton A, Ridley AR (2018). An intraspecific appraisal of the social intelligence hypothesis. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 373(1756). Author URL.
Woods RD, Kings M, McIvor GE, Thornton A (2018). Caller characteristics influence recruitment to collective antipredator events in jackdaws. Scientific Reports, 8, 7343-7343. Abstract.  Full text.
Ashton BJ, Ridley AR, Edwards EK, Thornton A (2018). Cognitive performance is linked to group size and affects fitness in Australian magpies. Nature, 554, pages 364-367. Full text.
Street SE, Morgan TH, Thornton A, Brown GR, Laland KN, Cross CP (2018). Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning. Scientific Reports, 8, 1715-1715. Full text.
Boogert NJ, Madden JR, Morand-Ferron J, Thornton A (2018). Measuring and understanding individual differences in cognition. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 373(1756). Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
McIvor GE, Lee VE, Thornton A (2018). Testing social learning of anti-predator responses in juvenile jackdaws: the importance of accounting for levels of agitation. Royal Society Open Science, 5, 171571-171571. Abstract.  Full text.
Mesoudi AA, Thornton A (2018). What is cumulative cultural evolution?. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Full text.
Valletta J, Torney C, Kings M, Thornton A, Madden J (2017). Applications of machine learning in animal behaviour studies. Animal Behaviour Full text.
Davidson GL, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2017). Evolution of iris colour in relation to cavity nesting and parental care in passerine birds. Biology Letters, 13, 20160783-20160783. Full text.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K, Dall SRX, Fernandez-Duque E, Garber PA, Young AJ (2016). Fundamental Problems with the Cooperative Breeding Hypothesis. A reply to Burkart & Van Schaik. Journal of Zoology, 299(2), 84-88. Full text.
Greggor AL, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2016). Harnessing learning biases is essential for applying social learning in conservation. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71, 16-16. Full text.
Greggor AL, Jolles JW, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2016). Seasonal changes in neophobia and its consistency in rooks: the effect of novelty type and dominance position. Animal Behaviour, 121, 11-20. Full text.
Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Fulford AJC, Thornton A (2016). Street smart: faster approach towards litter in urban areas by highly neophobic corvids and less fearful birds. Animal Behaviour, 117, 123-133. Full text.
Mesoudi A, Chang L, Dall SRX, Thornton A (2016). The evolution of individual and cultural variation in social learning. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 31(3), 215-225. Full text.
Greggor AL, Spencer KA, Clayton NS, Thornton A (2016). Wild jackdaws’ reproductive success and their offspring’s stress hormones are connected to provisioning rate and brood size, not to parental neophobia. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 243, 70-77. Full text.
Thornton A, Mcauliffe K (2015). Cognitive consequences of cooperative breeding? a critical appraisal. Journal of Zoology, 295(1), 12-22. Abstract.  Full text.
Zwirner E, Thornton A (2015). Cognitive requirements of cumulative culture: teaching is useful but not essential. Sci Rep, 5 Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cockburn A, Thornton A, Sheldon BC (2015). Counting conformity: evaluating the units of information in frequency-dependent social learning. ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR, 110, E5-E8. Author URL.  Full text.
Duffield C, Wilson AJ, Thornton A (2015). Desperate Prawns: Drivers of Behavioural Innovation Vary across Social Contexts in Rock Pool Crustaceans. PLoS One, 10(10). Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cockburn A, Thornton A, Sheldon BC (2015). Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds. Nature, 518(7540), 538-541. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Wilson A (2015). In search of the Darwinian Holy Trinity in cognitive evolution: a comment on Croston et al. Behavioral Ecology, 26(6), 1460-1461. Full text.
Greggor AL, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2015). Neophobia is not only avoidance: Improving neophobia tests by combining cognition and ecology. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 6, 82-89. Abstract.  Full text.
Thornton A, Raihani NJ (2015). The proximate-ultimate confusion in teaching and cooperation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38 Abstract.  Full text.
Mcauliffe K, Thornton A (2015). The psychology of cooperation in animals: an ecological approach. Journal of Zoology, 295(1), 23-35. Abstract.
Davidson GL, Clayton NS, Thornton A (2015). Wild jackdaws, Corvus monedula, recognize individual humans and may respond to gaze direction with defensive behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 108, 17-24. Abstract.  Full text.
Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Phalan B, Thornton A (2014). Comparative cognition for conservationists. Trends Ecol Evol, 29(9), 489-495. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Davidson GL, Butler S, Fernández-Juricic E, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2014). Gaze sensitivity: Function and mechanisms from sensory and cognitive perspectives. Animal Behaviour, 87(C), 3-15. Abstract.  Full text.
Thornton A (2014). How and why are some species so smart? a comment on Rowe and Healy. Behavioral Ecology, 25(6), 1294-1295. Full text.
Zandberg L, Jolles JW, Boogert NJ, Thornton A (2014). Jackdaw nestlings can discriminate between conspecific calls but do not beg specifically to their parents. Behavioral Ecology, 25(3), 565-573. Abstract.  Full text.
Davidson GL, Clayton NS, Thornton A (2014). Salient eyes deter conspecific nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula). Biol Lett, 10(2). Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Isden J, Madden JR (2014). Toward wild psychometrics: Linking individual cognitive differences to fitness. Behavioral Ecology, 25(6), 1299-1301. Abstract.  Full text.
Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Phalan B, Thornton A (2014). Translating cognitive insights into effective conservation programs: reply to Schakner et al. Trends Ecol Evol, 29(12), 652-653. Author URL.  Full text.
Jolles JW, King AJ, Manica A, Thornton A (2013). Heterogeneous structure in mixed-species corvid flocks in flight. Animal Behaviour, 85(4), 743-750. Abstract.  Full text.
Thornton A, Clayton NS, Grodzinski U (2012). Animal minds: from computation to evolution. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 367(1603), 2670-2676. Author URL.  Full text.
McAuliffe K, Thornton A (2012). How do banded mongooses locate and select anvils for cracking encased food items?. BEHAVIOURAL PROCESSES, 90(3), 350-356. Author URL.
Hoppitt W, Samson J, Laland KN, Thornton A (2012). Identification of Learning Mechanisms in a Wild Meerkat Population. PLOS ONE, 7(8). Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Lukas D (2012). Individual variation in cognitive performance: developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 367(1603), 2773-2783. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Samson J (2012). Innovative problem solving in wild meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 83(6), 1459-1468. Abstract.
Raihani NJ, Thornton A, Bshary R (2012). Punishment and cooperation in nature. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 27(5), 288-295. Abstract.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K (2012). Teaching can teach us a lot. Animal Behaviour, 83(4). Full text.
Thornton A, Clutton-Brock T (2011). Social learning and the development of individual and group behaviour in mammal societies. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 366(1567), 978-987. Abstract.  Author URL.
Thornton A, Raihani NJ (2010). Identifying teaching in wild animals. LEARNING & BEHAVIOR, 38(3), 297-309. Author URL.
Thornton A, Samson J, Clutton-Brock T (2010). Multi-generational persistence of traditions in neighbouring meerkat groups. Proc Biol Sci, 277(1700), 3623-3629. Abstract.  Author URL.
Thornton A, Malapert A (2009). Experimental evidence for social transmission of food acquisition techniques in wild meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 78(2), 255-264. Abstract.
Hodge SJ, Thornton A, Flower TP, Clutton-Brock TH (2009). Food limitation increases aggression in juvenile meerkats. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 20(5), 930-935. Author URL.
Thornton A, Hodge SJ (2009). The development of foraging microhabitat preferences in meerkats. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 20(1), 103-110. Author URL.
Thornton A, Malapert A (2009). The rise and fall of an arbitrary tradition: an experiment with wild meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1660), 1269-1276. Abstract.
Thornton A, Malapert A (2009). The rise and fall of an arbitrary tradition: an experiment with wild meerkats. Proc Biol Sci, 276(1660), 1269-1276. Abstract.  Author URL.
Thornton A (2008). Early body condition, time budgets and the acquisition of foraging skills in meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 75(3), 951-962. Abstract.
Hoppitt WJE, Brown GR, Kendal R, Rendell L, Thornton A, Webster MM, Laland KN (2008). Lessons from animal teaching. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 23(9), 486-493. Abstract.
Thornton A (2008). Social learning about novel foods in young meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 76(4), 1411-1421. Abstract.
Thornton A, Raihani NJ (2008). The evolution of teaching. Animal Behaviour, 75(6), 1823-1836. Abstract.
Thornton A (2008). Variation in contributions to teaching by meerkats. Proc Biol Sci, 275(1644), 1745-1751. Abstract.  Author URL.
Thornton A, Raihani NJ, Radford AN (2007). Teachers in the wild: some clarification. TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES, 11(7), 272-273. Author URL.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K (2006). Kalahari classrooms: How meerkats teach pups to hunt. Planet Earth(WINTER 2006), 20-21. Abstract.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K (2006). Teaching in wild meerkats. SCIENCE, 313(5784), 227-229. Author URL.

Chapters

Greggor AL, Thornton A (2016). Convergent evolution of animal intelligence. In Shackleford TA, Weekes-Shackleford VA (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Springer International Publishing, 1-7.  Full text.
Thornton A, Clutton-Brock T (2012). Social learning and the development of individual and group behaviour in mammal societies. In Whiten A, Hinde RA, Stringer CB, Laland KN (Eds.) Culture Evolves, Oxford University Press, USA, 71-87.

Publications by year


In Press

Greggor AL, McIvor GE, Clayton NS, Thornton A (In Press). Contagious risk taking: social information and context influence wild jackdaws' responses to novelty and risk. Sci Rep, 6 Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.

2018

Ashton BJ, Thornton A, Ridley AR (2018). An intraspecific appraisal of the social intelligence hypothesis. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 373(1756). Author URL.
Woods RD, Kings M, McIvor GE, Thornton A (2018). Caller characteristics influence recruitment to collective antipredator events in jackdaws. Scientific Reports, 8, 7343-7343. Abstract.  Full text.
Ashton BJ, Ridley AR, Edwards EK, Thornton A (2018). Cognitive performance is linked to group size and affects fitness in Australian magpies. Nature, 554, pages 364-367. Full text.
Street SE, Morgan TH, Thornton A, Brown GR, Laland KN, Cross CP (2018). Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning. Scientific Reports, 8, 1715-1715. Full text.
Boogert NJ, Madden JR, Morand-Ferron J, Thornton A (2018). Measuring and understanding individual differences in cognition. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 373(1756). Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
McIvor GE, Lee VE, Thornton A (2018). Testing social learning of anti-predator responses in juvenile jackdaws: the importance of accounting for levels of agitation. Royal Society Open Science, 5, 171571-171571. Abstract.  Full text.
Mesoudi AA, Thornton A (2018). What is cumulative cultural evolution?. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Full text.

2017

Valletta J, Torney C, Kings M, Thornton A, Madden J (2017). Applications of machine learning in animal behaviour studies. Animal Behaviour Full text.
Davidson GL, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2017). Evolution of iris colour in relation to cavity nesting and parental care in passerine birds. Biology Letters, 13, 20160783-20160783. Full text.

2016

Greggor AL, Thornton A (2016). Convergent evolution of animal intelligence. In Shackleford TA, Weekes-Shackleford VA (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Springer International Publishing, 1-7.  Full text.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K, Dall SRX, Fernandez-Duque E, Garber PA, Young AJ (2016). Fundamental Problems with the Cooperative Breeding Hypothesis. A reply to Burkart & Van Schaik. Journal of Zoology, 299(2), 84-88. Full text.
Greggor AL, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2016). Harnessing learning biases is essential for applying social learning in conservation. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71, 16-16. Full text.
Greggor AL, Jolles JW, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2016). Seasonal changes in neophobia and its consistency in rooks: the effect of novelty type and dominance position. Animal Behaviour, 121, 11-20. Full text.
Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Fulford AJC, Thornton A (2016). Street smart: faster approach towards litter in urban areas by highly neophobic corvids and less fearful birds. Animal Behaviour, 117, 123-133. Full text.
Mesoudi A, Chang L, Dall SRX, Thornton A (2016). The evolution of individual and cultural variation in social learning. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 31(3), 215-225. Full text.
Greggor AL, Spencer KA, Clayton NS, Thornton A (2016). Wild jackdaws’ reproductive success and their offspring’s stress hormones are connected to provisioning rate and brood size, not to parental neophobia. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 243, 70-77. Full text.

2015

Thornton A, Mcauliffe K (2015). Cognitive consequences of cooperative breeding? a critical appraisal. Journal of Zoology, 295(1), 12-22. Abstract.  Full text.
Zwirner E, Thornton A (2015). Cognitive requirements of cumulative culture: teaching is useful but not essential. Sci Rep, 5 Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cockburn A, Thornton A, Sheldon BC (2015). Counting conformity: evaluating the units of information in frequency-dependent social learning. ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR, 110, E5-E8. Author URL.  Full text.
Duffield C, Wilson AJ, Thornton A (2015). Desperate Prawns: Drivers of Behavioural Innovation Vary across Social Contexts in Rock Pool Crustaceans. PLoS One, 10(10). Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Aplin LM, Farine DR, Morand-Ferron J, Cockburn A, Thornton A, Sheldon BC (2015). Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds. Nature, 518(7540), 538-541. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Wilson A (2015). In search of the Darwinian Holy Trinity in cognitive evolution: a comment on Croston et al. Behavioral Ecology, 26(6), 1460-1461. Full text.
Greggor AL, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2015). Neophobia is not only avoidance: Improving neophobia tests by combining cognition and ecology. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 6, 82-89. Abstract.  Full text.
Thornton A, Raihani NJ (2015). The proximate-ultimate confusion in teaching and cooperation. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38 Abstract.  Full text.
Mcauliffe K, Thornton A (2015). The psychology of cooperation in animals: an ecological approach. Journal of Zoology, 295(1), 23-35. Abstract.
Davidson GL, Clayton NS, Thornton A (2015). Wild jackdaws, Corvus monedula, recognize individual humans and may respond to gaze direction with defensive behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 108, 17-24. Abstract.  Full text.

2014

Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Phalan B, Thornton A (2014). Comparative cognition for conservationists. Trends Ecol Evol, 29(9), 489-495. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Davidson GL, Butler S, Fernández-Juricic E, Thornton A, Clayton NS (2014). Gaze sensitivity: Function and mechanisms from sensory and cognitive perspectives. Animal Behaviour, 87(C), 3-15. Abstract.  Full text.
Thornton A (2014). How and why are some species so smart? a comment on Rowe and Healy. Behavioral Ecology, 25(6), 1294-1295. Full text.
Zandberg L, Jolles JW, Boogert NJ, Thornton A (2014). Jackdaw nestlings can discriminate between conspecific calls but do not beg specifically to their parents. Behavioral Ecology, 25(3), 565-573. Abstract.  Full text.
Davidson GL, Clayton NS, Thornton A (2014). Salient eyes deter conspecific nest intruders in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula). Biol Lett, 10(2). Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Isden J, Madden JR (2014). Toward wild psychometrics: Linking individual cognitive differences to fitness. Behavioral Ecology, 25(6), 1299-1301. Abstract.  Full text.
Greggor AL, Clayton NS, Phalan B, Thornton A (2014). Translating cognitive insights into effective conservation programs: reply to Schakner et al. Trends Ecol Evol, 29(12), 652-653. Author URL.  Full text.

2013

Jolles JW, King AJ, Manica A, Thornton A (2013). Heterogeneous structure in mixed-species corvid flocks in flight. Animal Behaviour, 85(4), 743-750. Abstract.  Full text.

2012

Thornton A, Clayton NS, Grodzinski U (2012). Animal minds: from computation to evolution. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 367(1603), 2670-2676. Author URL.  Full text.
McAuliffe K, Thornton A (2012). How do banded mongooses locate and select anvils for cracking encased food items?. BEHAVIOURAL PROCESSES, 90(3), 350-356. Author URL.
Hoppitt W, Samson J, Laland KN, Thornton A (2012). Identification of Learning Mechanisms in a Wild Meerkat Population. PLOS ONE, 7(8). Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Lukas D (2012). Individual variation in cognitive performance: developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 367(1603), 2773-2783. Abstract.  Author URL.  Full text.
Thornton A, Samson J (2012). Innovative problem solving in wild meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 83(6), 1459-1468. Abstract.
Raihani NJ, Thornton A, Bshary R (2012). Punishment and cooperation in nature. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 27(5), 288-295. Abstract.
Thornton A, Clutton-Brock T (2012). Social learning and the development of individual and group behaviour in mammal societies. In Whiten A, Hinde RA, Stringer CB, Laland KN (Eds.) Culture Evolves, Oxford University Press, USA, 71-87.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K (2012). Teaching can teach us a lot. Animal Behaviour, 83(4). Full text.

2011

Thornton A, Clutton-Brock T (2011). Social learning and the development of individual and group behaviour in mammal societies. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 366(1567), 978-987. Abstract.  Author URL.

2010

Thornton A, Raihani NJ (2010). Identifying teaching in wild animals. LEARNING & BEHAVIOR, 38(3), 297-309. Author URL.
Thornton A, Samson J, Clutton-Brock T (2010). Multi-generational persistence of traditions in neighbouring meerkat groups. Proc Biol Sci, 277(1700), 3623-3629. Abstract.  Author URL.

2009

Thornton A, Malapert A (2009). Experimental evidence for social transmission of food acquisition techniques in wild meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 78(2), 255-264. Abstract.
Hodge SJ, Thornton A, Flower TP, Clutton-Brock TH (2009). Food limitation increases aggression in juvenile meerkats. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 20(5), 930-935. Author URL.
Thornton A, Hodge SJ (2009). The development of foraging microhabitat preferences in meerkats. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 20(1), 103-110. Author URL.
Thornton A, Malapert A (2009). The rise and fall of an arbitrary tradition: an experiment with wild meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1660), 1269-1276. Abstract.
Thornton A, Malapert A (2009). The rise and fall of an arbitrary tradition: an experiment with wild meerkats. Proc Biol Sci, 276(1660), 1269-1276. Abstract.  Author URL.

2008

Thornton A (2008). Early body condition, time budgets and the acquisition of foraging skills in meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 75(3), 951-962. Abstract.
Hoppitt WJE, Brown GR, Kendal R, Rendell L, Thornton A, Webster MM, Laland KN (2008). Lessons from animal teaching. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 23(9), 486-493. Abstract.
Thornton A (2008). Social learning about novel foods in young meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 76(4), 1411-1421. Abstract.
Thornton A, Raihani NJ (2008). The evolution of teaching. Animal Behaviour, 75(6), 1823-1836. Abstract.
Thornton A (2008). Variation in contributions to teaching by meerkats. Proc Biol Sci, 275(1644), 1745-1751. Abstract.  Author URL.

2007

Thornton A, Raihani NJ, Radford AN (2007). Teachers in the wild: some clarification. TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES, 11(7), 272-273. Author URL.

2006

Thornton A, McAuliffe K (2006). Kalahari classrooms: How meerkats teach pups to hunt. Planet Earth(WINTER 2006), 20-21. Abstract.
Thornton A, McAuliffe K (2006). Teaching in wild meerkats. SCIENCE, 313(5784), 227-229. Author URL.

Refresh publications

Editorial responsibilities

Member of the editorial boards of Proceedings of the Royal Society B and Scientific Reports.

Reviewer for the following journals: Animal Behaviour, Animal Cognition, Behavioral Ecology, Current Biology, Ecology Letters, Ethology, Nature Communications, PlosOne, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Nature Communications.

Grant reviewer for the BBSRC, Royal Society, National Science Foundation (USA); NERC; United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation; Vienna Science and Technology Fund.

Member of the Expert Working Group on Culture and Social Complexity within the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species.


Invited lectures

I have given invited seminars at >20 universities around the world, including the universities of Harvard, Edinburgh, Groningen, Keio and Zurich and the Max Planck institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.


Media Coverage

My research has attracted media attention around the world, with coverage including Science, National Geographic, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Enquirer, National Public Radio (USA), The Times (London), The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, Canadian Broadcasting Company, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.

You can find links to articles, radio interviews and podcasts at my website: www.wildcognitionresearch.com.


Workshops/Conferences organised

Co-organiser (with Uri Grodzinski and Nicki Clayton) of a major Royal Society Meeting, "Animal Minds: from Computation to Evolution" and associated Kavli Centre satellite meeting "Theories of Minds: the Theoretical Bases of Comparative Cognition".

http://royalsociety.org/events/2012/animal-minds-computation/

I coordinate the year 3 module ‘Animal Cogntion’ and teach on the Borneo field course and on Development of Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology in year 2.

Postdoctoral researchers

Postgraduate researchers

  • Beki Hooper PhD student, Cornish Jackdaw Project
  • Michael Kings (2013-2017, Exeter, co-supervised by Andy Radford, Bristol) Cooperation, cognition and culture in wild jackdaws
  • Victoria Lee PhD student, Cornish Jackdaw Project
  • Richard Woods (PhD 2012-2015, Exeter) Communication and cognition in wild jackdaws

Research Technicians

  • Devi Whittle Project Administrator, Cultural Minds project

Alumni

  • Gabrielle Davidson (PhD 2010-2013, Cambridge, with Nicky Clayton) Gaze following in jackdaws
  • Alison Greggor (PhD 2012-2015, Cambridge, with Nicky Clayton) Neophobia and innovation in wild jackdaws
  • Jolle Jolles BBSRC Research Assistant, Cambridge
  • Rebecca Pearce (MPhil Cambridge, 2012) Social organisation and decision-making in wild jackdaws
  • Lies Zandberg (MSc Wageningen, 2012) Individual recognition in jackdaws

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