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Lecture 16

BIO SCI 94 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Proximate And Ultimate Causation, Reciprocal Altruism, Eusociality

Biological Sciences
Course Code
Robin Bush

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Chapter 53 Behavioral Ecology
Behavior is action in response to a stimulus from the environment
Behavioral ecology is the study of how organisms respond to particular abiotic
and biotic stimuli from their environment
Much of animal behavior thought to be adaptive
Proximate and Ultimate Causation
Proximate or mechanistic causation explains how actions occur
Ultimate or evolutionary causation explains why actions occur
Efforts to explain behavior at proximate and ultimate levels are complementary
To understand what an organism is doing, biologists want to know how
the behavior happens and why
Spiny lobsters are able to find their way back to their den after a night of hunting.
On a proximate level, research indicates they use special receptors in
their brains that detect changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. This is how
they can find they way around
On the ultimate level, the ability to navigate allows them to search for food
over a wide area under cover of darkness, then return to a safe refuge
before predators can find them. This is why they do this behavior, from an
evolutionary point of view.
There are many types of behavior
In a single species, behavior may range from fixed action patterns (FAPs), which
are highly stereotyped, invariable responses (like yawns, which we can also learn
to fake) to highly flexible, conditional responses (like deciding to go to college)
Fixed action patterns (FAPs) are highly stereotypical unlearned behavior
patterns that have three characteristics:
1. There is almost no variation in how they are performed
2. They are species specific
3. Once sequence of action begins, it continues until completion.
Other behaviors are not so easy to classify. The tendency to imprint is
innate, but the chicks learn who to imprint on during a critical
developmental period that lasts only a few days.
Upon hatching, ducklings and goslings adopt as their mother the
first moving thing they see. They then follow that individual around
Such behavior is called imprinting
Most learning is not like this
Can animals learn complicated task? Can they “think?”
New Caledonian crows are famous for making tools and solving complex
problems. Every additional report about this type of behavior in animals is
presented like it is a shocking surprise
Most behavior is flexible and condition-dependent
Conditional behavioral strategies are behavioral responses that depend
on particular conditions
To link condition-dependent behavior to fitness, biologists use a
framework called a cost-benefit analysis
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