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Indiana University Bloomington

Department of Biology

Faculty & Research

Faculty Profile

Emília Martins

Photo of Emília Martins
Research Images
Research photo by Emília Martins


Research photo by Emília Martins

Diplay-Action-Pattern graphs describing the displays produced by the robotic lizard. The y-axis represents the height of the lizard's head.

Research photo by Emília Martins

Robotic lizard.

Professor of Biology

IU Affiliations
Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior
Cognitive Sciences
Program in Neuroscience

Contact Information
By telephone: 812-856-5840/5-5652(lab)
JH 133B / JH 133 (lab)

Martins Lab website
Mechanisms of Behavior

Evolution, Ecology & Behavior
Research Areas
  • Behavior
  • Evolution
  • Genomics and Bioinformatics

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1992

Research Description

My primary research interest is in the evolution of complex behavioral traits such as communication and social behavior. Our goal is to understand how microevolutionary processes acting on a generation time scale (e.g., random genetic drift, selection, learning) translate into the macroevolutionary patterns we see in a set of interspecific data. Primarily, we strive to understand the evolutionary forces driving the evolution of communication and social behavior in lizards and fish. How do genetic and social factors interact over long periods of evolutionary time? Are major patterns of behavioral differentiation best explained by the strongest selective pressures or by those which are the most persistent, albeit sometimes weak?

Research in my lab combines comparative studies of communicative signals, empirical research on the social, genetic, hormonal, and chemical mechanisms underlying behavioral plasticity, and development of theoretical methods and software. Our comparative research focuses mostly on lizard headbob displays, spanning taxa in North America (spiny lizards: Sceloporus), the Caribbean (rock iguanas: Cyclura), South America (Liolaemus), and Africa (chameleons). Our studies of behavioral mechanisms began with Sceloporus lizards and include playback experiments with a robotic model (Fig. 2). We have also conducted several projects comparing the social behavior of Zebrafish (Fig. 1) from different Indian populations, making use of the wealth of genetic and developmental tools available to answer core questions in the evolution of complex traits. Among other things, we have studied multimodal signals, behavioral syndromes, and social networks.

We created several computer programs such as COMPARE which allows researchers to apply phylogenetic comparative methods to their own data, EthoBank, a public database for behavioral data (tables of numbers, figures, film clips, etc.), and SocANet, which calculates social network statistics. Our lab is also involved with EthoSource, an international effort to make behavioral data more easily accessible over the internet.

Select Publications
Vital C, Martins EP. 2013. Socially-central zebrafish influence group behavior more than those on the social periphery. PLOS One 8:355503. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055503  [article]
Ossip-Klein AG, Fuentes JA, Hews DK, Martins EP. 2013. Information content is more important than sensory system in guiding the long-term evolutionary relationships between signaling modalities in Sceloporus lizards. Behavioral Ecology and Socibiology 67: 1513-1522. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1535-4  [article]
Ruiz M, Beals ZM, Martins EP. 2010. Male sagebrush lizards (Sceloporus graciosus) increase exploratory behavior towards females with more courtship experience. Herpetologica 66:131-136.
Ruiz M, French SS, Demas GE, Martins EP. 2010. Food supplementation and testosterone interact to influence reproductive behavior and immune function in Sceloporus graciosus. Hormones and Behavior 57:134-139.  [article]
Nava S, Conway M, Martins EP. 2009. Sex-specific visual performance: female lizards outperform males motion detection. Biology Letters 5: 732-734.  [article]
Vital, C. and E.P. Martins. 2009. Using graph theory metrics to infer information flow through animal social groups: a computer simulation analysis. Ethology 115:347-355.  [article]
Nava, S.S., M. Conway and E.P. Martins. 2009. Divergence of visual motion detection in diurnal geckos that inhabit bright and dark habitats. Functional Ecology 23: 794-799.  [article]
Thompson, J.T., Bissell, A.N. and E.P. Martins. 2008. Inhibitory interactions between multimodal behavioral responses may influence the evolution of complex signals. Animal Behaviour, 76: 113-121.  [article]
Ruiz, M., E. Davis and E.P. Martins. 2008. Courtship attention in Sagebrush lizards varies with male identity and female reproductive state. Behavioral Ecology 19: 1326-1332.  [article]
Kelso, E.C. and E.P. Martins. 2008. The effects of two courtship display components on female reproductive behaviour and physiology in the sagebrush lizard. Animal Behaviour 75: 639-646.  [article]
Moretz, J.A., E.P. Martins, and B. D. Robison. 2007. The effects of early and adult social environment on zebrafish (Danio rerio) behavior. Environmental Biology of Fishes 80:91-101.  [article]
Moretz, J.A., E.P. Martins, and B. D. Robison. 2007. Behavioral syndromes and the evolution of correlated behavior in zebrafish. Behavioral Ecology 18:556-562.  [article]
Ord, T.J. and E.P. Martins. 2006. Tracing the origins of signal diversity in anole lizards: phylogenetic approaches to inferring the evolution of complex behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 71:1411-1429.  [article]
Bissell, A.N. and E.P. Martins. 2006. Male choice and female avoidance as mechanisms of population discrimination in Sagebrush lizards. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 60: 655-662.  [article]
Smith, C.B. and E.P. Martins. 2006. Display plasticity in response to a robotic lizard: Signal matching or song-sharing in lizards? Ethology 112: 955-962.  [article]
Martins, E.P., T.J. Ord, J. Slaven, J.L. Wright, and E.A. Housworth. 2006. Individual, sex, seasonal and temporal variation in the amount of Sagebrush lizard scent-marks. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 32: 881-893.  [article]

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