2005_campbl51 - Chapter 51: Behavioral Ecology Studying...

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1 Chapter 51: Behavioral Ecology Studying Behavior ± Behavior is how organisms act in response to environmental stimuli , with the word "act" (as well as the phrase "environmental stimuli") left somewhat ambiguous ± Behavior influences the acquisition of energy, nutrients, sex, help in child rearing, removal of ectoparasites, survival, establishment and maintenance of dominance hierarchies, etc. ± The study of behavior becomes interesting when behaviors… are not obviously in the organism's best interest when the cost of the behavior is high even given that ultimately the behavior serves the organism's Darwinian interests (e.g., in terms of energy required to learn or display the behavior, or when the maintenance of costly anatomical features, e.g., a large brain, is necessary for the display of the behavior) when the behavior appears to be overly simplistic though still sufficient to get the job done (e.g., FAPS) Proximate vs. Ultimate It’s not the specific examples that are important but instead how, in a general sense, the different causes are conceptually different Behavioral Ecology ± Behavioral ecology emphasizes evolutionary hypotheses pertaining to “ultimate” causation: Behavioral ecology is the research field that views behavior as an evolutionary adaptation to the natural ecological conditions of animals We expect animals to behave in ways that maximize their fitness (this idea is valid only if genes influence behavior) ± Behavior has both proximate and ultimate causes: Proximate questions are mechanistic, concerned with the environmental stimuli that trigger a behavior, as well as the genetic and physiological mechanisms underlying a behavioral act Ultimate questions address the evolutionary significance for a behavior and why natural selection favors this behavior—how the behavior contributes to an organism’s Darwinian fitness Proximate Causes, eh A behavioral ecologist assumes that the proximate cause of a behavior is simply the mechanism underlying the means by which a behavior is manifest A behavioral ecologist is interested in proximate causation only to the extent that these mechanisms serve to constrain the evolution of specific behaviors
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2 Proximate Causes, eh It should not be overlooked that understanding how behaviors are constrained by an organism's anatomy and physiology is highly relevant ; however, otherwise becoming mired down in the details of the anatomy and physiology of a behavior can be somewhat distracting to one's understanding of the ecology of a behavior, so proximate causation is frequently accepted as a given For Example: Bird Songs Why has natural selection favored a multi-song behavior? Hypothesis: It may be advantageous for
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This note was uploaded on 06/03/2011 for the course BIO 113 taught by Professor Swenson during the Spring '08 term at Ohio State.

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2005_campbl51 - Chapter 51: Behavioral Ecology Studying...

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