1989 Balzan Prize for Ethology
Leo Pardi’s (*1915 – †1990) main research topics are the social behaviour of the hymenopterans and the mechanisms of the orientation in arthropods. With his capacity for sharp observation he has made fundamental discoveries in both these areas; these place him among the most distinguished scholars of ethology.
His studies on the social organization of wasps have offered important interpretative insights into the social behaviour of insects and have made possible stimulating comparisons with vertebrates. Through his discovery of a hierarchical organization among wasps, professor Pardi introduced a concept of social domination in invertebrates as early as the 1940’s. His superbly conducted ethological analysis of polistine society has made it possible to determine the interactions that occur between social rank, physiological regulations, trophic advantages, and reproductive success. The results of these lines of research have acted as a stimulus for the widening of ethological investigations to other groups of insects, and for productive studies in the field of social evolution.
Professor Pardi’s discoveries on the astronomical orientation of arthropods have revealed the role of behaviour in the maintenance of the preferred habitat in animals that live in environments on the borders between two different ecosystems (ecotones). His demonstration of the coexistence, in single species, of a variety of complex orientation mechanisms has been particularly important. His discovery of a phenomenon of lunar orientation and his analysis of heredity and acquired components of solar orientation have been brilliant achievements in modem ethnology.
As Director of an important Research Center, he has dedicated many years of work to promoting studies on the fauna of African coasts; with the participation of many researchers, these have led to major advances in the field of eco-ethology.
Leo Pardi is still involved in the development of his studies, together with many followers who have helped to attract the attention of the international scientific community to basic ethological problems.