The Research Triangle Park

American Scientist Pizza Lunch speaker series: The Dances of Animals

THE FRONTIER | 800 PARK OFFICES DRIVE, RTP, NC May 30 12:00 pm - May 30 1:00 pm

Join us for a great talk about science and some free pizza!

Our speaker this time is Matthew Fuxjager, biologist at Wake Forest University, who studies animal display behavior.


Many animals signal to each other through the performance of physical displays, which often incorporate stunning acrobatics and extraordinary athleticism. In many ways, this behavior represents some of evolution’s finest work, as it involves levels of physicality that outshine even the best human Olympians and sports stars. Thus, my lab explores how such behavior emerges, and I will present my findings that address this issue. I will focus on work that I have recently published in a tropical bird called the golden-collared manakin, as males of this species court females by performing rapid wing movements linked together into a magnificent physical dance display. I will show evidence that much of this behavior relies on androgenic hormones, like testosterone, which act throughout the neuromuscular system. I will also present data that uncovers what testosterone does to the bird’s muscular physiology, allowing it to perform this incredible dance. My aim is to develop an overarching evolutionary framework in which we can begin to understand how an organism’s physiology is re-written to support selection for new— and highly bizarre—reproductive behaviors.


I received my PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where I studied the hormonal control of aggressive behavior and territoriality in New World rodents. Then, I worked as a post-doc for three years at UCLA in the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology. This is where I began investigating endocrine effects on courtship behavior, and how differences in these effects can lead to alternate courtship behavior traits. I’m currently an Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University, where my lab examines the mechanisms and evolution of magnificent reproductive behaviors in birds and frogs.

RSVPs are required (for the slice count) by registering for a free ticket to this event. BECAUSE OF THE MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY, please get your ticket by 2 PM on FRIDAY, MAY 26. (If you decide to come after this time, you're welcome to attend, but we might not have pizza for you.)

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center and funding from the RTP chapter of Sigma Xi, American Scientist's noontime Pizza Lunch speaker series is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes, as well as any interested member of the public. Feel free to extend this invitation to anyone who might want to attend.

Did you miss some past pizza lunch talks? Check out our videos and podcasts of previous speakers:

Talks are co-organized with Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC). The RTP chapter of Sigma Xi is a co-organizer and co-sponsor, and encourages any interested scientists to get involved with the chapter and its upcoming events. We thank The Frontier for providing space. The meeting will be held in The Classroom at The Frontier.