Mr Luca Lamoni

Postgraduate Student

Harold Mitchell Top Floor
tel. 01334 463351
fax. 01334 463366

PhD Project Description

Developing a data-driven multi-agent model for studying humpback whale song cultural evolution.

This project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust for a period of three years. This interdisciplinary collaboration involves our department (Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution and the Sea Mammal Research Unit), Plymouth’s University Interdisciplinary Centre of Computer Music Research (Prof. Miranda) and the Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory at the University of Queensland, Australia (Dr. Noad). I will work closely with the PhD student from Plymouth University, Michael Mcloughlin, whose task is to develop the basic agent-based modelling framework.


  1. Describe qualitatively and quantitatively the structure and variation of humpback whale songs recorded off Eastern Australia during the last 10 years.
  2. Use the observed data to build statistical models that will reconstruct artificially humpback whale song hierarchical structure, accounting for individual and temporal variation.
  3. Construct an agent-based models implementing the above mentioned statistical production models working on the architecture of the multi-agent singing models described earlier (Miranda et al., 2010).
  4. Describe through different agent-based model simulations the range of conditions and learning mechanisms involved in the interactions among autonomous agents resulting in the observed evolution change in songs observed at the population level.
  5. Explore different scenarios under which model populations will exhibit both evolutionary and revolutionary cultural change, fitting the prediction to evolutionary/revolutionary changes observed in the Eastern Australian population and across the central-south Pacific (Noad et al., 2000; Garland et al., 2011).
  6. Introduce model extensions that encompass replicator dynamics, in order to test different evolutionary hypothesis related to the relationship between song characteristics and reproductive success.


  • Mooney TA, Kaplan MB,Izzi A, Lamoni L, Sayigh L (2016). Temporal trends in cusk eel sound production at a proposed US wind farm site. Aquatic Biology 24:201-210.
  • Lisa Steiner, Luca Lamoni, Marta Acosta Plata, Silje-Kristin Jensen, Erland Lettevall and Jonathan Gordon (2012). A link between male sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, of the Azores and Norway. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 92, pp 1751-1756. doi:10.1017/S0025315412000793. 

(source: symbiosis database)
Mr Luca Lamoni
Harold Mitchell Building
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9TH

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