The major evolutionary transitions often result in reorganization of biological systems, and a component of such reorganization is that individuals within the system specialize on performing certain tasks, resulting in a division of labor. Although the traditional benefit of division of labor is thought to be a gain in work efficiency, one alternative benefit of specialization is avoiding temporal delays associated with switching tasks. While models have demonstrated that costs of task switching can drive the evolution of division of labor, little empirical support exists for this hypothesis. Read More
The evolution of elaborate forms of parental care is an important topic in behavioral ecology, yet the factors shaping the evolution of complex suites of parental and offspring traits are poorly understood. Here, we use a multivariate quantitative genetic approach to study phenotypic and genetic correlations between parental and offspring traits in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. To this end, we recorded 2 prenatal traits (clutch size and egg size), 2 postnatal parental behaviors (direct care directed toward larvae and indirect care directed toward resource maintenance), 1 offspring behavior (begging), and 2 measures of breeding success (larval dispersal mass and number of dispersing larvae). Read More
Personality is an intriguing phenomenon in populations because it constrains behavioral flexibility. One theory suggests that personality could be generated and maintained if dependent on asset protection. It is predicted that trade-offs with fitness expectations and survival probability encourage consistent behavioral differences among individuals (personality). Read More
Many prey have evolved toxins as a defense against predation. Those species that advertise their toxicity to would-be predators with conspicuous warning signals are known as "aposematic." Investment in toxicity by aposematically signaling prey is thought to underpin how aversive prey are to predators; increasing toxicity means that predators learn to avoid prey faster and attack them at lower rates. Read More
Indirect fitness benefits gained through kin-selected helping are widely invoked to explain the evolution of cooperative breeding behavior in birds. However, the impact of helpers on productivity of helped broods can be difficult to determine if the effects are confounded by territory quality or if the benefit of helpers is apparent only in the long term. In riflemen Acanthisitta chloris, helping and group membership are effectively decoupled as adult helpers are individuals that have dispersed from their natal territory and live independently from breeders in "kin neighborhoods. Read More
The influence of coloration on the ecology and evolution of moving animals in groups is poorly understood. Animals in groups benefit from the "confusion effect," where predator attack success is reduced with increasing group size or density. This is thought to be due to a sensory bottleneck: an increase in the difficulty of tracking one object among many. Read More
Although the evolutionary mechanisms that favor investment in cooperative behaviors have long been a focus of research, comparatively few studies have considered the role that sexual selection may play. For example, evolutionary explanations for sentinel behavior (where 1 individual assumes an elevated position and scans the surroundings while other group members forage nearby) have traditionally focused on the inclusive fitness benefits arising from its effects on predation risk, while its potential role in defense against intrasexual competitors remains largely unexplored. Here, we provide experimental evidence of a role for sentinel behavior in intrasexual competition, in a cooperatively breeding songbird, the white-browed sparrow weaver (Plocepasser mahali). Read More
Models suggest that dispersal patterns will influence age- and sex-dependent helping behavior in social species. Duolocal social systems (where neither sex disperses and mating is outside the group) are predicted to be associated with mothers favoring sons over daughters (because the latter are in reproductive competition with each other). Other models predict daughter-biased investment when benefits of wealth to sons are less than daughters. Read More
Secondary sexual traits may convey information about individual condition. We assessed the capacity for immune challenge with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) during the prenatal and early postnatal stages to impact beak color development and expression in captive zebra finches. In addition, we tested whether adult immune challenge impacted beak color, and if early-life experience was influential. Read More
In species where parental care occurs primarily via the provisioning of eggs, older females tend to produce larger offspring that have better fitness prospects. Remarkably however, a relationship between age of mother and fitness of offspring has also been reported independently of effects on offspring size suggesting that there may be other factors at play. Here, using experimental matings between wild Atlantic salmon that differed in their age at sexual maturation, we demonstrate distinct size-independent variation in the behavior of their offspring that was related to the maturation age of the mother (but not the father). Read More
Dispersal affects the social contexts individuals experience by redistributing individuals in space, and the nature of social interactions can have important fitness consequences. During the vagrancy stage of natal dispersal, after an individual has left its natal site and before it has settled to breed, social affiliations might be predicted by opportunities to associate (e.g. Read More
Experiments designed to quantify the effects of increasing numbers of carers on levels of offspring care are rare in cooperative breeding systems, where offspring are reared by individuals additional to the breeding pair. This paucity might stem from disagreement over the most appropriate manipulations necessary to elucidate these effects. Here, we perform both carer removal and brood enhancement experiments to test the effects of numbers of carers and carer:offspring ratios on provisioning rates in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps). Read More
While conducting a toxicity assessment of the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil®), in wild-derived mice (Mus musculus), we observed that exposed dams (P0) produced female biased litters (32:68 M:F). Though numerous experimental manipulations have induced sex ratio bias in mice, none have assessed the fitness of the offspring from these litters relative to controls. Here, we retrospectively analyze experimentally derived fitness data gathered for the purpose of toxicological assessment in light of 2 leading hypothesis (Trivers-Willard hypothesis [TWH] and cost of reproduction hypothesis [CRH]), seeking to test if this facultative sex ratio adjustment fits into an adaptive framework. Read More
Animals can be flexible in their migration strategies, using several wintering sites or a variety of routes. The mechanisms promoting the development of these migratory patterns and their potential fitness consequences are poorly understood. Here, we address these questions by tracking the dispersive migration of a pelagic seabird, the Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, using over 100 complete migration tracks collected over 7 years, including repeated tracks of individuals for up to 6 consecutive years. Read More
The distribution and abundance of food resources are among the most important factors that influence animal behavioral strategies. Yet, spatial variation in feeding habitat quality is often difficult to assess with traditional methods that rely on extrapolation from plot survey data or remote sensing. Here, we show that maximum entropy species distribution modeling can be used to successfully predict small-scale variation in the distribution of 24 important plant food species for chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Read More
Ecological conditions are expected to have an important influence on individuals' investment in cooperative care. However, the nature of their effects is unclear: both favorable and unfavorable conditions have been found to promote helping behavior. Recent studies provide a possible explanation for these conflicting results by suggesting that increased ecological variability, rather than changes in mean conditions, promote cooperative care. Read More
Sexual selection results from variation in success at multiple stages in the mating process, including competition before and after mating. The relationship between these forms of competition, such as whether they trade-off or reinforce one another, influences the role of sexual selection in evolution. However, the relationship between these 2 forms of competition is rarely quantified in the wild. Read More
Resource sharing is an important cooperative behavior in many animals. Sharing resources is particularly important in social insect societies, as division of labor often results in most individuals including, importantly, the reproductives, relying on other members of the colony to provide resources. Sharing resources between individuals is therefore fundamental to the success of social insects. Read More
Aposematism is a well-known strategy in which prey defend themselves from predation by pairing defenses such as toxins, with warning signals that are often visually conspicuous color patterns. Here, we examine the possibility that aposematism can be induced in a host by colonies of infectious parasites in order to protect the parasites from the consequences of attacks on the host. Earlier studies show that avian predators are reluctant to feed on carcasses of host prey that are infected with the entomopathogenic nematode, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. Read More
Parasites can increase their host's predation susceptibility. It is a long-standing puzzle, whether this is caused by host manipulation, an evolved strategy of the parasite, or by side effects due to, for example, the parasite consuming energy from its host thereby changing the host's trade-off between avoiding predation and foraging toward foraging. Here, we use sequential infection of three-spined sticklebacks with the cestode Schistocephalus solidus so that parasites have a conflict of interest over the direction of host manipulation. Read More
The traditional assumption within the research literature on human sexually dimorphic traits has been that many sex differences have arisen from intersexual selection. More recently, however, there has been a shift toward the idea that many male features, including male lower-pitched voices and male beard growth, might have arisen predominantly through intrasexual selection: that is, to serve the purpose of male-male competition instead of mate attraction. In this study, using a unique set of video stimuli, we measured people's perceptions of the dominance and attractiveness of men who differ both in terms of voice pitch (4 levels from lower to higher pitched) and beard growth (4 levels from clean shaven to a month's hair growth). Read More
Multiple mating by females (polyandry) is a widespread behavior occurring in diverse taxa, species, and populations. Polyandry can also vary widely within species, and individual populations, so that both monandrous and polyandrous females occur together. Genetic differences can explain some of this intraspecific variation in polyandry, but environmental factors are also likely to play a role. Read More
Phenotypic plasticity will be favored whenever there are significant fitness benefits of responding to environmental variation. The extent and nature of the plasticity that evolves depends on the rate of environmental fluctuations and the capacity to track and respond to that variability. Reproductive environments represent one arena in which changes can be rapid. Read More
School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ, UK,; Nature Seychelles, Centre for Environment and Education, The Sanctuary, PO Box 1310, Roche Caiman, Victoria, Mahé, Republic of Seychelles.
The prevalence and significance of precopulatory mate choice remains keenly debated. The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays a key role in vertebrate adaptive immunity, and variation at the MHC influences individual survival. Although MHC-dependent mate choice has been documented in certain species, many other studies find no such pattern. Read More
Long-lived, highly social species with prolonged offspring dependency can show long postreproductive periods. The Mother hypothesis proposes that a need for extended maternal care of offspring together with increased maternal mortality risk associated with old age select for such postreproductive survival, but tests in species with long postreproductive periods, other than humans and marine mammals, are lacking. Here, we investigate the Mother hypothesis with longitudinal data on Asian elephants from timber camps of Myanmar 1) to determine the costs of reproduction on female age-specific mortality risk within 1 year after calving and 2) to quantify the effects of mother loss on calf survival across development. Read More
Females of many animal species seek mating opportunities with multiple males, despite being able to obtain sufficient sperm to father their offspring from a single male. In animals that live in stable social groups, females often choose to mate outside their group resulting in extra-group paternity (EGP). One reason proposed to explain female choice for extra-group males is to obtain compatible genes, for example, in order to avoid inbreeding depression in offspring. Read More
There have been many potential explanations put forward as to why polyandry often persists despite the multiple costs it can inflict on females. One such explanation is avoidance of costs associated with mating with genetically incompatible males. Genetic incompatibility can be thought of as a spectrum from individuals that are genetically too similar (inbreeding) to those that are too dissimilar (outbreeding or hybridization). Read More
Parental care systems are shaped by costs and benefits to each sex of investing into current versus future progeny. Flexible compensatory parental care is mainly known in biparental species, particularly where parental desertion or reduction of care by 1 parent is common. The other parent can then compensate this loss by either switching parental roles and/or by increasing its own parental effort. Read More
Males can gather information on the risk and intensity of sperm competition from their social environment. Recent studies have implicated chemosensory cues, for instance cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) in insects, as a key source of this information. Here, using the broad-horned flour beetle (Gnatocerus cornutus), we investigated the importance of contact-derived rival male CHCs in informing male perception of sperm competition risk and intensity. Read More
Investigating patterns of among and within-individual trait variation in populations is essential to understanding how selection shapes phenotypes. Behavior is often the most flexible aspect of the phenotype, and to understand how it is affected by selection, we need to examine how consistent individuals are. However, it is not well understood whether among-individual differences tend to remain consistent over lifetimes, or whether the behavior of individuals relative to one another varies over time. Read More
Many animals communicate through acoustic signaling, and "acoustic space" may be viewed as a limited resource that organisms compete for. If acoustic signals overlap, the information in them is masked, so there should be selection toward strategies that reduce signal overlap. The extent to which animals are able to partition acoustic space in acoustically diverse habitats such as tropical forests is poorly known. Read More
In socially monogamous species, in which both sexes provide essential parental care, males as well as females are expected to be choosy. Whereas hundreds of studies have examined monogamy in biparental birds, only several such studies exist in fish. We examined mate choice in the biparental, colonial cichlid fish Neolamprologus caudopunctatus in Lake Tanganyika, Zambia. Read More
Behav Ecol 2015 Mar-Apr;26(2):527-532. Epub 2014 Dec 24.
Department of Animal Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University , Norbyvägen 18D, SE-75236 Uppsala , Sweden and ; Department of Zoology/Ethology, Stockholm University , Svante Arrheniusväg 18 B, SE-10691 Stockholm , Sweden.
Brain size varies dramatically among vertebrates, and selection for increased cognitive abilities is thought to be the key force underlying the evolution of a large brain. Indeed, numerous comparative studies suggest positive relationships between cognitively demanding aspects of behavior and brain size controlled for body size. However, experimental evidence for the link between relative brain size and cognitive ability is surprisingly scarce and to date stems from a single study on brain size selected guppies (Poecilia reticulata), where large-brained females were shown to outperform small-brained females in a numerical learning assay. Read More
Behav Ecol 2015 Mar-Apr;26(2):340-349. Epub 2015 Jan 29.
Department of Integrative Zoology , University of Vienna , Althanstrasse 14 , A-1090 Vienna , Austria and ; Department of Cognitive Biology , University of Vienna , Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna , Austria.
"Ecosystem engineering" describes habitat alteration by an organism that affects another organism; such nontrophic interactions between organisms are a current focus in ecological research. Our study quantifies the actual impact an ecosystem engineer can have on another species by using a previously identified model system-peccaries and rainforest frogs. In a 4-year experiment, we simulated the impact of peccaries on a population of Allobates femoralis (Dendrobatidae) by installing an array of artificial pools to mimic a forest patch modified by peccaries. Read More
Behav Ecol 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):269-281. Epub 2014 Oct 31.
Brain, Mind, and Behavior Unit, California National Primate Research Center, University of Califoria, One Shields Avenue , Davis CA 95616 , USA , ; Department of Psychology, University of California Davis , One Shields Ave, Davis, CA, 95616 , USA.
The maternal environment exerts important influences on offspring mass/growth, metabolism, reproduction, neurobiology, immune function, and behavior among birds, insects, reptiles, fish, and mammals. For mammals, mother's milk is an important physiological pathway for nutrient transfer and glucocorticoid signaling that potentially influences offspring growth and behavioral phenotype. Glucocorticoids in mother's milk have been associated with offspring behavioral phenotype in several mammals, but studies have been handicapped by not simultaneously evaluating milk energy density and yield. Read More
Contrasting with separate-sexed animals, simultaneous hermaphrodites display unique reproductive strategies as they are male and female at the same time. Simultaneous hermaphrodites that copulate unilaterally, for instance, make a decision to mate as a male or female. Previous studies have demonstrated that sex role preference in hermaphrodites is flexible and is controlled by several, often confounding, factors. Read More
Incubation is energetically demanding, but it is debated whether these demands constrain incubation-scheduling (i.e., the length, constancy, and timing of incubation bouts) in cases where both parents incubate. Read More
In many species, females have evolved behavioral strategies to reduce the risk of infanticide. For instance, polyandry can create paternity confusion that inhibits males from killing offspring they could have sired. Here, the authors propose that females could socially obtain the same benefits by nesting communally. Read More
How do territorial neighbors resolve the location of their boundaries? We addressed this question by testing the predictions of 2 nonexclusive game theoretical models for competitive signaling: the sequential assessment game and the territorial bargaining game. Our study species, the banded wren, is a neotropical nonmigratory songbird living in densely packed territorial neighborhoods. The males possess repertoires of approximately 25 song types that are largely shared between neighbors and sequentially delivered with variable switching rates. Read More
Throughout their recent recovery in several industrialized countries, large carnivores have had to cope with a changed landscape dominated by human infrastructure. Population growth depends on the ability of individuals to adapt to these changes by making use of new habitat features and at the same time to avoid increased risks of mortality associated with human infrastructure. We analyzed the summer movements of 19 GPS-collared resident wolves (Canis lupus L. Read More
Desiccation is a particular risk for small animals in arid environments. In response, many organisms "construct niches," favorable microenvironments where they spend part or all of their life cycle. Some maintain such environments for their offspring via parental care. Read More
Visual signals are often under conflicting selection to be hidden from predators while being conspicuous to mates and rivals. Here, we investigated whether 3 different island populations of Aegean wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii) with variable coloration among diverse island habitats exhibit simultaneous camouflage and sexual signals. We examined whether signals appear better tuned to conspecific vision as opposed to that of avian predators, and whether background-matching camouflage and sexual signals are partitioned to specific body regions. Read More
An important problem facing organisms in a heterogeneous environment is how to redistribute resources to where they are required. This is particularly complex in social insect societies as resources have to be moved both from the environment into the nest and between individuals within the nest. Polydomous ant colonies are split between multiple spatially separated, but socially connected, nests. Read More
Behav Ecol 2014 Sep 17;25(5):1164-1172. Epub 2014 Jun 17.
Jr. Research Group 'Primate Sexual Selection', German Primate Center , Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Goettingen , Germany , ; CRC 'Evolution of Social Behaviour', Georg-August University , Kellnerweg 6, 37077 Goettingen , Germany.
Premature loss of offspring decreases direct fitness of parents. In gregarious mammals, both ecological and social variables impact offspring survival and may interact with each other in this regard. Although a number of studies have investigated factors influencing offspring loss in mammals, we still know very little on how different factors interact with one another. Read More
Dietary access to carotenoids is expected to determine the strength of carotenoid-based signal expression and potentially to maintain signal honesty. Species that display carotenoid-based yellow, orange, or red plumage are therefore expected to forage selectively for carotenoid-rich foods when they are depositing these pigments during molt, but whether they actually do so is unknown. We set out to address this in the hihi (Notiomystis cincta), a New Zealand passerine where males, but not females, display yellow carotenoid-based plumage. Read More
Fundamental and formant frequencies influence perceived pitch and are sexually dimorphic in humans. The information content of these acoustic parameters can illuminate the forces of sexual selection shaping vocal sex differences as well as the mechanisms that ensure signal reliability. We use multiple regression to examine the relationships between somatic (height, adiposity, and strength) and acoustic (fundamental frequency [F0], formant position [Pf], and fundamental frequency variation [F0-SD]) characteristics in a sample of peripubertal Bolivian Tsimane. Read More
Junior Research Group of Primate Kin Selection, Department of Primatology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology , Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig , Germany , ; Research Group of Behavioural Ecology, Institute of Biology, Faculty of Bioscience, Pharmacy and Psychology, University of Leipzig , Talstrasse 33, 04103 Leipzig , Germany.
The degree of polygyny is predicted to influence the strength of direct male-male competition, leading to a high variance in male lifetime reproductive success and to reproduction limited to the prime period of adulthood. Here, we explore the variance in male lifetime reproductive success and reproductive time in an anthropoid primate forming multimale-multifemale groups. Males of this species form dominance hierarchies, which are expected to skew reproduction toward few high-ranking males. Read More
Male eagerness to mate is a central paradigm of sexual selection theory. However, limited sperm supplies mean that male sexual restraint might sometimes be favored under promiscuous mating. Here, we demonstrate dynamic plasticity in male mating effort when females are encountered sequentially under varying sperm competition risk. Read More
Resource competition is one potential behavioral mechanism by which invasive species can impact native species, but detecting this competition can be difficult due to the interactions that variable environmental conditions can have on species behavior. This is particularly the case in urban habitats where the disturbed environment can alter natural behavior from that in undisturbed habitats. The rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri), is an increasingly common invasive species, predominantly associated with large urban centers. Read More
The "social intelligence hypothesis" states that the need to cope with complexities of social life has driven the evolution of advanced cognitive abilities. It is usually invoked in the context of challenges arising from complex intragroup structures, hierarchies, and alliances. However, a fundamental aspect of group living remains largely unexplored as a driving force in cognitive evolution: the competition between individuals searching for resources (producers) and conspecifics that parasitize their findings (scroungers). Read More