Ryan Earley


Associate Professor
Undergraduate Recruitment Committee Chair


  • Postdoctoral Research, NSF Center for Behavioral Neuroscience
  • PhD, Biology, University of Louisville, 2002

Research Interests

Ryan Earley, wearing scuba gear, swims through algaeResearch in the Earley laboratory centers around animal behavior and the diverse mechanisms that underlie remarkable levels of behavioral variation among individuals of a population.  The vast majority of our work involves fishes, and fuses field observations of behavior and ecology with laboratory studies on hormones, metabolism, gene expression, and neurobiology.  Our work with convict cichlid fish brings us to the volcanic crater lakes of Nicaragua where we explore the ecology and evolution of female sexual ornaments and variation in aggressive behavior; back in the lab, we apply a host of techniques to examine the physiological correlates of morphological and behavioral variation.  In the mangrove ecosystems of south Florida and the Caribbean, we study the mangrove rivulus – a self-fertilizing hermaphroditic fish withRyan Early underwater extraordinary sexual habits and unique population architecture. Our work with the mangrove rivulus focuses on gene x environment interactions during development and during adulthood, and the mechanisms that set phenotypic plasticity into motion. Back in our home state of Alabama, we have initiated projects on the nest association behavior of bluenose shiners with the goal of revealing why shiners lay their eggs in the nests of sunfish, how they determine suitable egg-laying sites, and how the costs and benefits of this interspecific interaction play out from both the shiner and sunfish perspective.

Selected Publications

  • Earley RL & Hsu Y (2013). Contest behaviour in fishes. In: Animal Contests (eds. I.C.W. Hardy & M. Briffa). Cambridge University Press, pp. 199-227.
  • Earley RL, Lee IH, Lu CK, Wong SC, Li CY & Hsu Y (2013). Winner and loser effects are modulated by hormonal states. Frontiers in Zoology, 10:6.
  • Earley RL (2013) Instructor’s Manual to accompany Principles of Animal Behavior (3rd Edition) by Lee Alan Dugatkin, W.W. Norton & Co. Published online (books.wwwnorton.com). 229 pp.
  • Lorenzi V, Earley RL & Grober MS (2012). Differential responses of brain, gonad and muscle steroid levels to changes in social status and sex in a sequential and bidirectional hermaphroditic fish. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51158. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051158.
  • Earley RL, Hanninen AF, Fuller A, Garcia MJ & Lee EA (2012). Phenotypic plasticity and integration in the mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus). A prospectus. Integrative & Comparative Biology 52: 814-827.
  • Tatarenkov A, Earley RL, Taylor DS & Avise JC (2012). Microevolutionary distribution of isogenicity in a self-fertilizing fish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) in the Florida Keys. Integrative & Comparative Biology 52: 743-752.
  • Archard GA, Earley RL, Hanninen AF & Braithwaite VA (2012). Correlated behaviour and stress physiology in fish exposed to different levels of predation pressure. Functional Ecology 26: 637-645.
  • Garcia MJ, Sivaraman B, Paiva L, Lennox M, Wong SC & Earley RL (2012). Effects of fighting experience on future contest success in the green anole (Anolis carolinensis). Ethology 118: 821-834.
  • Copeland DL, Levay B, Sivaraman B, Beebe-Fugloni C & Earley RL (2011). Metabolic costs of fighting are driven by contest performance in male convict cichlid fish. Animal Behavior, 82: 271-280.
  • Earley RL (2010). Social eavesdropping and the evolution of conditional cooperation and cheating strategies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 365: 2675-2686.
  • Earley RL & Hsu Y. (2008). Reciprocity between endocrine state and contest behavior in the killifish, Kryptolebias marmoratus. Hormones & Behavior 53: 442-451.
  • Earley RL, Edwards JT, Aseem O, Felton K, Blumer LS, Karom M & Grober MS (2006). Social interactions tune aggression and stress responsiveness in a territorial cichlid fish (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus). Physiology & Behavior, 88: 353-363.
  • Earley RL, Blumer L & Grober MS (2004). The gall of subordination: changes in gallbladder function associated with social stress. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 271: 7-13.
  • Earley RL & Dugatkin LA (2002). Eavesdropping on visual cues in swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri) fights – a case for networking. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 269: 943 952.