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Dr Erin Siracusa

Dr Erin Siracusa

Postdoctoral Research Associate

 Washington Singer 124


Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4QG, UK


I am a behavioural ecologist broadly interested in the ecology and evolution of social behaviour. For almost all organisms (including seemingly solitary ones!) an important aspect of their environment is the conspecifics with which they might compete, cooperate, mate, or otherwise interact. I am interested in the potential for these social interactions to shape the behaviour, life history and fitness of individuals. By studying these patterns I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the processes leading to the evolution of complex social systems.

My research is primarily focused on free-living populations of mammals, and uses a combination of long-term data analysis, behavioural observations, and field experiments to address these questions.

I did my PhD on the Kluane Red Squirrel Project, a long-term research initiative studying the ecology and evolution of red squirrels in the southwest Yukon, and continue to collaborate with researchers on that project.

I am now working on a collaborative project studying a free-ranging population of rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. I am interested in using this study system to explore how social behaviour might contribute to the process of senescence.


2008-2012: BSc(Hons) Biology & English, St. Lawrence University, United States
2013-2018: PhD Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Canada


2020-Present: Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Exeter
2019-2020: Postdoctoral Researcher & Kluane Red Squirrel Project Coordinator, University of Guelph


Research group links

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Research interests

My broad interests lie in the evolution of social behaviour. My previous work has explored social interactions in “solitary” species and used this to test important questions about the mechanisms underlying conflict resolution and the evolution of cooperation. I am currently interested in how social behaviour might contribute to our understanding of senescence by exploring how and why social behaviour changes across the lifespan.

Research projects

I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate working with Dr. Lauren Brent, Dr. James Higham and Dr. Noah Snyder-Mackler on a collaborative project studying how social behaviour changes with age using a free-living population of rhesus macaques on the island of Cayo Santiago off the coast of Puerto Rico. Changes in behaviour with age, particularly social behaviour, is an understudied aspect of senescence and using this long-term study of macaques I hope to uncover both the causes and consequences of changes in social behaviour across the lifespan. Importantly we hope to explore how social aging affects other morphological, physiological, and demographic patterns of senescence to better elucidate the role of social relationships in the aging process.

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Journal articles

Siracusa ER, Pereira AS, Brask JB, Negron-Del Valle JE, Phillips D, Platt ML, Higham JP, Snyder-Mackler N, Brent LJN (2023). Ageing in a collective: the impact of ageing individuals on social network structure. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 378(1874). Abstract.
Rosado MRS, Marzan-Rivera N, Watowich MM, Valle ADN-D, Pantoja P, Pavez-Fox MA, Siracusa ER, Cooper EB, Valle JEN-D, Phillips D, et al (2023). Immune cell composition varies by age, sex and exposure to social adversity in free-ranging Rhesus Macaques. GeroScience, 46(2), 2107-2122.
Sanchez Rosado MR, Newman L, Watowich M, Pavez-Fox M, Valle JN-D, Phillips D, Skelton M, Siracusa E, Higham J, Brent L, et al (2023). Social Status is Associated with Impaired Anti-Inflammatory Response in Free-Ranging Male Rhesus Macaques. The Journal of Immunology, 210(1_Supplement), 248.13-248.13.
Martinig AR, Karst HJ, Siracusa ER, Studd EK, McAdam AG, Dantzer B, Delaney DM, Lane JE, Pokharel P, Boutin S, et al (2022). Animal personality: a comparison of standardized assays and focal observations in North American red squirrels. Animal Behaviour, 190, 221-232.
Pavez-Fox MA, Kimock CM, Rivera-Barreto N, Negron-Del Valle JE, Phillips D, Ruiz-Lambides A, Snyder-Mackler N, Higham JP, Siracusa ER, Brent LJN, et al (2022). Reduced injury risk links sociality to survival in a group-living primate. iScience, 25(11), 105454-105454.
Siracusa ER, Higham JP, Snyder-Mackler N, Brent LJN (2022). Social ageing: exploring the drivers of late-life changes in social behaviour in mammals. Biology Letters, 18(3). Abstract.
Siracusa ER (2022). Social senescence in red deer. Nat Ecol Evol, 6(8), 1062-1063.  Author URL.
Siracusa ER, Negron-Del Valle JE, Phillips D, Platt ML, Higham JP, Snyder-Mackler N, Brent LJN (2022). Within-individual changes reveal increasing social selectivity with age in rhesus macaques. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(49). Abstract.
Fisher DN, Kilgour RJ, Siracusa ER, Foote JR, Hobson EA, Montiglio P, Saltz JB, Wey TW, Wice EW (2021). Anticipated effects of abiotic environmental change on intraspecific social interactions. Biological Reviews, 96(6), 2661-2693. Abstract.
Siracusa ER, Boutin S, Dantzer B, Lane JE, Coltman DW, McAdam AG (2021). Familiar Neighbors, but Not Relatives, Enhance Fitness in a Territorial Mammal. Current Biology, 31(2), 438-445.e3.
Studd EK, Menzies AK, Siracusa ER, Dantzer B, Lane JE, McAdam AG, Boutin S, Humphries MM (2020). Optimisation of energetic and reproductive gains explains behavioural responses to environmental variation across seasons and years. Ecology Letters, 23(5), 841-850. Abstract.
Siracusa ER, Boutin S, Dantzer B, Lane JE, Coltman DW, McAdam AG (2019). Familiar neighbours, but not relatives, enhance fitness in a territorial mammal. Abstract.
Siracusa ER, Wilson DR, Studd EK, Boutin S, Humphries MM, Dantzer B, Lane JE, McAdam AG (2019). North American red squirrels mitigate costs of territory defence through social plasticity. Animal Behaviour, 151, 29-42.
Siracusa E, Boutin S, Humphries MM, Gorrell JC, Coltman DW, Dantzer B, Lane JE, McAdam AG (2017). Familiarity with neighbours affects intrusion risk in territorial red squirrels. Animal Behaviour, 133, 11-20. Abstract.
Siracusa E, Morandini M, Boutin S, Humphries MM, Dantzer B, Lane JE, McAdam AG (2017). Red squirrel territorial vocalizations deter intrusions by conspecific rivals. Behaviour, 154(13-15), 1259-1273. Abstract.

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