Office Hrs: Thurs 1-3
This graduate course reviews current controversies in the study of the adaptiveness and evolution of behavior. The course objectives include: attaining a basic knowledge of approaches and topics in behavioral ecology, learning to critically evaluate and synthesize the scientific literature, and effective verbal and written communication.
Final Grade is determined based on your attendance (10%), participation (10%), discussion topics (20%), performance as discussion leader (10%), and essay grades (50%). Surprise quizzes may be given to ensure that you keep up with the assigned reading.
Attendance: You are required to attend class. Please advise me beforehand if you intend to miss class for any reason. Poor attendance will lower your grade.
Participation: Speak up! Things will get boring unless we all attempt to dynamically explore some of the ideas that will come up in class and during discussions. If you have a pertinent question or comment, share it with us. Force yourself, if necessary. Training yourself to participate by being constructively critical will always be of value to you. I will grade your participation during each week, and particularly during discussions.
Discussion topics: These short written topics, based on the readings for that discussion session, are due to the discussion leader by 5 pm the night before they will be discussed. One to two topics should be developed based on your own reading of the material. Develop questions or thoughts on the issues raised by the papers. This should run 0.5-1 page and may be clearly handwritten.
Performance as discussion leader: It isn't easy to manage and solicit discussion by a group of people. The discussion questions submitted by the other participants should help. See me if you'd like some more tips.
Short essays: see attached description.
Week Dates Topic Krebs & Davis Chapter
1 21 Aug What is behavioral ecology?
23 Natural selection and genetics of behavior 1
25 Studying adaptiveness 2
2 28 Aug The comparative approach
30 Comparative methodologies
01 Sept Using the library
3 04 Sept NO CLASS, Labor Day holiday
06 Economics, decision-making, optimality 3
08 Discussion of an alternative
4 11 Sept Play and other puzzling behaviors
15 Discussion One
5 18 Sept Fighting, assessment, and ESSs 7
20 Evolutionary arms races 4
22 Discussion Two
6 25 Sept Competing for resources and territoriality 5
27 ESSAY ONE is due by 5 pm
29 Living in groups 6
7 02 Oct Parent offspring conflict
04 Sexual conflict and sexual selection 8
06 Oct Discussion Four
8 09 Oct Mate choice models
11 Mate choice controversies
13 Discussion Five
9 16 Oct Parental care and mating systems 9
18 Alternative breeding strategies 10
20 Discussion Six
10 23 Oct Selfishness and altruism 11
25 ESSAY TWO due by 5 pm
Cooperative breeding 12
27 Discussion Seven
11 30 Oct Social insects 13
01 Nov Social decisions
03 Discussion Eight
12 06 Nov Communication and the design of signals 14
08 Error, exaggeration, deception and manipulation
10 Discussion Nine
13 13 Nov Learning, cognitive architecture and evolution
17 Discussion Ten
14 20 No class. Work on your next essay.
15 27 ESSAY THREE due at start of class
01 Dec Discussion Eleven
16 04 Conclusions and summary 15
06 What are the unsolved problems?
08 Final Discussion
NOTE The readings must be completed before coming to lecture on the date assigned.
There will be additional readings on reserve.
Essays for Behavioral Ecology
The essays for this course should follow the basic design of articles presented in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (commonly called 'TrEE'), with one major exception: don't use footnotes, instead cite by (author, year). Include a page number if you are refering to a specific point in a larger work (i.e. an entire book). The number of references is limited, so choose only the most appropriate. Do not cite references you haven’t read.
Essay One: Perspective
A perspective should provide a review of an historical or philosophical issue in behavioral ecology; alternatively, it can report on research in other disciplines where these impinge on behavioral ecology. Unlike the commentaries you will write for Essays Two and Three, the perspective reviews the results and opinions of others without giving your own opinion on the subject. The style is otherwise the same as for commentaries (see below). Length limit: 1500 words + 25 references + 1 or 2 figures/tables/boxes total.
Essays Two and Three: Commentaries
A commentary addresses a controversial or developing issue of current importance in behavioral ecology and should be written from a considered and positive viewpoint. The expression of your opinion and ideas is encouraged. It is more than a review in that it evaluates the quality and adequacy of hypotheses and published evidence, and then suggests future needs and directions in the field. A self-contained summary/introductory paragraph or two providing essential background on the subject should be provided to lead the reader into your article. Length limit: 1500 words + 25 references + 1 or 2 figures/tables/boxes total.
Manuscripts should be typed, double-spaced throughout, on one side of the paper only, with at least 2.5 cm margins on all sides. Do not justify the right margin. You will be graded on content as well as grammar and format. Be sure to use a spelling/typo checker before you print your final copy.
Informative subheadings should be used to divide up the text. Conventional headings such as Abstract, Introduction, Discussion, etc. will not be used.
Tables should be concise and informative. They should also be self-contained, not requiring any further explanation. The table title should consist of a single sentence typed at the head of the table. Footnotes at the base of the table can be cross-referenced to items in the body of the table by using superscript lower case letters (e.g. a or b) in the columns.
Boxes can be used for an additional explanatory information, for instance, for terms, details of experiments or the elaboration of a mathematical model. Boxes should be typed on a separate sheet and should have concise titles and should be numbered and mentioned in the text.
Illustrations should be prepared carefully. Drawings should be numbered and labeled economically and clearly. Legends to illustrations should be typed double-space on a separate sheet and the figure number should be on the figure.
Remember that the scientific literature existed well
before computer indexes to the literature were created. You are expected
to review and evaluate all the literature on a subject, not just those
references you can find off the computer. We’ll discuss this point in more
detail during the Using the Library class.
Short Essay Topics
These topics were chosen because they are currently
unresolved and involve some controversy. Most of the topics are too broad
for a short essay. Focusing the topic on the most important points is part
of the assignment. Only one student may write on any one topic. If you
would like to write an essay about a topic not listed here, please consult
with me first.
Essay One: due 27 Sept. Natural selection.
a. evolution of clutch size (birds, insects)
b. evolution of sexual size dimorphism
c. evolution of maturation time (age of first reproduction)
d. evolution of delayed plumage maturation
e. evolution of offspring size
f. evolution of behavior that increases genetic variability
g. evolution of the timing of larval release in marine invertebrates
h. emergence patterns of insects: evolution of protandry
I. evolution of body size
j. evolution of diapause in insects
Essay Two: due 25 Oct. Survival strategies and decision making.
a. current status of the ‘information center’ hypothesis
b. current status of the controversy over social foraging
c. current status of the controversy over ‘i’m here’ signals
d. current status of the ‘dear enemy’ hypothesis
e. current status of the effect of information gathering on diet choice
f. current status of ‘ideal free’ models of foraging
g. do parasites affect the behavior of their hosts?
h. evolution of schooling in fishes
I. evolution of feeding rates
j. evolution of winter territories in birds
Essay Three: due 27 Nov. Reproductive strategies and sexual selection.
a. evolution of leks
b. deception in sexual signals
c. current status of the Hamilton and Zuk hypothesis
d. does real sex role reversal exist?
e. current status of the sensory exploitation hypothesis
f. current status of the non-kin cooperation and prisoner’s dilemma models
g. current status of models of intraspecific nest parasitism
h. current status of sexual selection as a cause of speciation
I. evolution of mate guarding
j. evolution of multiple mating
k. evolution of extra-pair copulations