skip to content

Department of Zoology


Our research focuses on the use of game theory and evolutionary simulation modelling to predict how different species (including our own) behave under different social and ecological conditions. Particular areas of interest include the evolution of life history tactics, as well as social behaviour including communication, cooperation and conflict.

Current research topics include:

  • The evolution of trans-generational effects and their impact on life-history evolution

  • Social influences on life history evolution, with a particular focus on human life history strategies and the evolution of menopause

  • The evolution of early life effects on later health and performance

  •  Evolutionary conflicts within the family and their resolution

  • The evolution of social learning and teaching

  • The evolution of collective conflict between groups, and its influence on coordination within groups

Key Publications 

Wells, J.C.K., Sear, R., Stearns, S.C., Nesse, R., Johnstone, R. A. 2017 Evolutionary public health: introducing the concept. Lancet 390, 500-509.

Croft, D. P., Johnstone, R. A., Ellis, S., Nattrass, S, Franks, D. W., Brent, L.J.N., Mazzi, S., Balcomb, K.C., Ford, J.K.B, Cant, M.A. Reproductive conflict and the evolution of menopause in killer whales. Curr. Biol. 27 (2), 298-304

Thompson, F.J., Cant, M. A., Marhsall, H.H., Vitikainen, E.I.K., Sanderson, J.L., Nichols, H.J., Gilchrist, J.S., Bell, M.B.V., Young, A.J., Hodge, S.J., Johnstone, R.A. 2017 Explaining negative kin discrimination in a cooperative mammal society. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 201612235; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1612235114.

Kuijper, B., Johnstone, R. A. 2017 How sex-biased dispersal affects sexual conflict over care. Am. Nat. 189 DOI: 0.1086/691330

Kuijper, B., Johnstone, R. A. 2016 Parental effects and the evolution of phenotypic memory. J. Evol. Biol. 29, 265-276.

Full list of publications via Google Scholar


Contact Details

Group Leader

Professor Rufus Johnstone

Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Downing St

01223  (3)36685

Group Members