We recently conducted an interview with Dr. Nigel C. Bennett, of the University of Pretoria, who will be speaking for one of the plenary sessions at the upcoming ISWE 7 conference in South Africa. Dr. Bennett is the world leader in African mole-rat biology and in particular reproductive physiology. He is currently a professor of zoology at the University of Pretoria (UP) and also occupies the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Chair in the field of Mammalian Behavioural Ecology and Physiology and the UP Austin Roberts Chair of African Mammalogy.
We published some of Dr. Bennett’s interview in the latest ISWE newsletter, but he shared some additional thoughts with us. He described one of the most significant advancements made in the field of wildlife endocrinology in the last decade: “Elevated prolactin has been associated with the expression of social and cooperative behaviours in a number of mammal and bird species as well as in social suppression. While naked and Damaraland mole-rats have evolved eusociality independently in the family. The finding that non-breeding animals of both sexes have hyperprolactinaemic values in naked mole-rats, but this is absent in the non-reproductives of Damaraland mole-rats, the finding suggests that while elevated prolactin in naked mole-rats may be implicated in naked mole-rat eusociality, this is not the case in the Damaraland mole-rats. This ultimately suggests a lack of evolutionary convergence in the proximate control of the social phenotype in these mole-rats.”
We also asked Dr. Bennett what he thinks is the most vexing or important problem yet to be solved in wildlife endocrinology. He replied, “I think it would be fantastic if one could measure the hormones of animals in the field immediately without having to take the samples back to the lab, extract and assay. I hope one day we can measure the hormones in the field directly from the respective matrix whether it be plasma, urine, or faeces.”
We think it is safe to say the ISWE community looks forward to that day as well!