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chapter 51

behavioral ecology

studies how behavior is controlled and how it develops, evolves, and contributes to survival and reproductive success


everything an animal does and how it does it

proximate questions

focus on the environmental stimuli, if any, that trigger a behavior, as well as the genetic, physiological, and anatomical mechanisms underlying a behavioral act' "how" questions

ultimate questions

address the evolutionary significance of a behavior; "why" questions


the scientific study of how animals behave, particularly in their natural environments

Fixed action pattern (FAP)

a sequence of unlearned behavioral acts that is essentially unchangeable and, once initiated, is usually carried to completion

sign stimulus

an external sensory stimulus that triggers a FAP


a type of behavior that includes both learning and innate components and is generally irreversible

sensitive period

a limited phase in an animal's development that is the only time when certain behaviors can be learned

innate behavior

behavior that is developmentally


a simple change in activity or turning rate in response to a stimulus


a more or less automatic, oriented movement toward or away from some stimulus


a behavior that causes a change in another animal's behavior


the transmission of, reception of, and response to signals; an essential element of interactions between individuals


chemical substances emitted from animals that tend to communicate through odor


the modification of behavior based on specific experiences


a loss of responsiveness to stimuli that convey little or no information

spatial learning

the modification of behavior based on experience with spatial structure of the environment, including the locations of nest sites, hazards, food, and prospective mates; the capacity for spatial learning can enhance the fitness of an organism


location indicator

cognitive map

an internal representation, or code, of the spatial relationships between objects in an animal's surroundings

associative learning

the ability of many animals to associate one feature of the environment with another

classical conditioning

an arbitrary stimulus is associated with a reward or punishment


the ability of an animal's nervous system to perceive, store, or process, and use information gathered by sensory receptors

cognitive ethology

the study of animal cognition; examines the connection between an animal's nervous system and its behavior


behavior associated with recognizing, searching for, capturing, and consuming food

optimal foraging theory

foraging behavior as a compromise between the benefits of nutrition and the costs of obtaining food


no strong pair-bonds or lasting relationships


one male mating with one female


an individual of one sex mating with several of the other


a single male and many females


single females mates with several males

agonistic behavior

an often ritualized contest that determines which competition gains access to a resource, such as food or mates

game theory

evaluates alternative strategies in situations where the outcome depends not only on each individual's strategy but also on the strategies of other individuals


some animals do behave in ways that reduce their individual fitness but increase the fitness of other individuals in the population

inclusive fitness

the total effect an individual has on proliferating its genes by producing its own offspring and by providing aid that enables other close relative to produce offspring

coefficient of relatedness

the probability that if two individuals share a common parent or ancestor, a particular gene present in one individual will also be present in the second individual

kin selection

natural selection that favors this kind or altruistic behavior by enhancing reproductive success of relatives

reciprocal altruism

behavior can be adaptive if the aided individual returns the favor in the future; invoked to explain altruism between unrelated humans

social learning

learning through observing others


a system of information transfer through social learning or teaching that influences the behavior of individuals in a population

mate choice copying

a behavior in which individuals in a population copy the mate choice of others


where human culture is related to evolutionary theory

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