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Chapter 8

BIOL150 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Bluegill, Bee Hives, Behavioral Ecology

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Rebecca Rooney

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Biology 150 Chapter 8 Behavioural Ecology
Organismal and Evolutionary Ecology Reading notes
8.1 An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology
- About genetics, hormonal signals, neural signalling, natural selection, evolutionary
history, and ecological interactions
- Proximate and Ultimate Causation
o Proximate (or mechanistic) causation explains how actions occur in terms of
the neurological, hormonal, and skeletal muscular mechanisms involved
E.g. how do the spiny lobsters find their way back?
o Ultimate causation (or evolutionary) causation explains why actions occur-
based on their evolutionary consequences and history
E.g. why they have to return to the particular den?
- Conditional Strategies and Decision Making
o Innate, inflexible behaviour is rare
Fixed action patterns: highly inflexible, stereotyped behaviour
Innate behaviour: inherited, and shows little variation based on
learning or the individual’s condition
This type of behaviours are simple actions that researchers usually
begin with.
o Most Behaviour is flexible and condition dependent
Change in response to learning and
Show flexibility in response to changing environmental conditions
Organisms are not stimulus-response machines
Most animals have a range of actions that they can perform in
response to a situation; they make decisions about what to do
Condition dependent: make different decisions depend on the given
Cost-benefit analysis: animals weigh the costs and benefits of
responding to a particular situation in various ways; costs and
benefits are measured in terms of their impact on fitnessthe ability
to produce offspring.
Decisions made by nonhuman organisms are not conscious
Evolution shaped the nonhuman organism genome to direct a
nervous and endocrine system that is capable of
1. Taking in information and
2. Directing behaviour that is likely to pass that genome on to the
next generation
8.2 What Should I Eat?
- Foraging: when animals seek food
- 2 factors to consider when researchers try to understand why individuals eat the
way they do:
(1) research on genetic variation in foraging behaviour and
(2) the costs and benefits of feeding at various distances from home

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Biology 150 Chapter 8 Behavioural Ecology
Organismal and Evolutionary Ecology Reading notes
- Foraging Alleles in Drosophila melanogaster
o Inflexible behaviour—they don’t decide to be rovers or sitters
o Rovers and sitters tend to behave differently when they are foraging because
they have different alleles of the foraging gene
o How do different alleles change feeding behaviours? proximate level
The signalling pathway is associated with feeling or nervous system
o Why variants of the same protein make larvae more likely to move or stay in
place after feeding? --ultimate level
Rover allele is favoured when population density is high and food is in
short supply;
whereas the sitter allele reaches high frequency in low-density
populations, where food is abundant.
Rovers do better at high density because they are more likely to find
unused patches of food
Sitters do better at low density because they don’t waste energy
moving around
- Optimal Foraging in White-Fronted Bee-Eaters
o Foraging behaviour is sophisticated/flexible/condition-dependent
o Optimal foraging: animals maximize their feeding efficiency
o White-fronted bee-eaters make decisions that maximizes its fitness
8.3 Whom Should I Mate With?
- Sexual Activity in Anolis Lizards
o Sex hormonestestosterone in males and estradiol in females, change the
size of sex organs. The breeding season is in early spring when gonads in both
sexes grow bigger. (proximate level)
o Females need to experience spring-like light and temperature and exposure
to breeding males. (ultimate levelwhy do estradiol change in females)
o Dewlap is the key visual signal. (ultimate levelwhy does exposure to
breeding males cause the difference in female egg production)
- How Do Female Barn Swallows Choose Mates?
o Females are usually the gender that is pickiest about mate choice
o Females choose mates that contribute good alleles and/or resources to their
o Animals make decisions in a way that maximizes their fitness
8.4 Where Should I Live?
- Migration: long-distance movement of a population associated with a change of
seasons. (Proximate: how do they know where to go; ultimate: Why is it worth the
energy to go there?)
- How Do Animals Find Their Way on Migration?
o Three categories of navigation:
1. Piloting use of familiar landmarks
2. Compass orientation movement that is oriented in a specific direction
3. True navigation ability to locate a specific place on Earth’s surface
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