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1.  Boldness behavior and stress physiology in a novel urban environment suggest rapid correlated evolutionary adaptation 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;23(5):960-969 .
Novel or changing environments expose animals to diverse stressors that likely require coordinated hormonal and behavioral adaptations. Predicted adaptations to urban environments include attenuated physiological responses to stressors and bolder exploratory behaviors, but few studies to date have evaluated the impact of urban life on codivergence of these hormonal and behavioral traits in natural systems. Here, we demonstrate rapid adaptive shifts in both stress physiology and correlated boldness behaviors in a songbird, the dark-eyed junco, following its colonization of a novel urban environment. We compared elevation in corticosterone (CORT) in response to handling and flight initiation distances in birds from a recently established urban population in San Diego, California to birds from a nearby wildland population in the species' ancestral montane breeding range. We also measured CORT and exploratory behavior in birds raised from early life in a captive common garden study. We found persistent population differences for both reduced CORT responses and bolder exploratory behavior in birds from the colonist population, as well as significant negative covariation between maximum CORT and exploratory behavior. Although early developmental effects cannot be ruled out, these results suggest contemporary adaptive evolution of correlated hormonal and behavioral traits associated with colonization of an urban habitat.
PMCID: PMC3431113  PMID: 22936840
adaptation; boldness; corticosterone; evolution; junco; urbanization
2.  Nest site and weather affect the personality of harvester ant colonies 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;23(5):1022-1029.
Environmental conditions and physical constraints both influence an animal's behavior. We investigate whether behavioral variation among colonies of the black harvester ant, Messor andrei, remains consistent across foraging and disturbance situations and ask whether consistent colony behavior is affected by nest site and weather. We examined variation among colonies in responsiveness to food baits and to disturbance, measured as a change in numbers of active ants, and in the speed with which colonies retrieved food and removed debris. Colonies differed consistently, across foraging and disturbance situations, in both responsiveness and speed. Increased activity in response to food was associated with a smaller decrease in response to alarm. Speed of retrieving food was correlated with speed of removing debris. In all colonies, speed was greater in dry conditions, reducing the amount of time ants spent outside the nest. While a colony occupied a certain nest site, its responsiveness was consistent in both foraging and disturbance situations, suggesting that nest structure influences colony personality.
PMCID: PMC3431114  PMID: 22936841
behavioral syndromes; collective behavior; harvester ant; Messor andrei; nest structure; personality; plasticity; social insects; temperament
3.  Photorefractoriness and energy availability interact to permit facultative timing of spring breeding 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;23(5):1049-1058.
In seasonally breeding mammals, vernal reproductive development is not directly triggered by increases in day length, rather, an endogenous program of photorefractoriness to short winter days initiates spontaneous development in advance of spring. The transition to the reproductive phenotype is energetically demanding. How food availability in late winter and early spring impacts the onset and expression of photorefractoriness is not known. In this study, male Siberian hamsters were born into a simulated natural photoperiod, and at the winter solstice, they were subjected to a restricted feeding protocol in which a daily food ration was provided in an amount equal to ad libitum (AL) intake during the weeks preceding the solstice. Over the next several months, AL–fed control hamsters exhibited spontaneous recrudescence or spontaneous development. In contrast, vernal reproductive development was abolished in most food-rationed hamsters. In food-rationed hamsters that did exhibit recrudescence, conspicuous delays in the onset of gonadal development and decreases in the magnitude of growth were evident. In all hamsters, the termination of food rationing triggered rapid gonadal development. The data indicate that late winter/early spring increases in environmental food availability are required for the normal manifestation of photorefractoriness-induced reproductive development and suggest that a function of photorefractoriness may be merely to disinhibit the reproductive axis from photoperiodic suppression. Vernal gonadal development or recrudescence appears to be strongly affected by proximate energy availability.
PMCID: PMC3431115  PMID: 22936842
energy balance; food availability; photoperiodism; seasonality; Siberian hamster
4.  Paternal care and the evolution of exaggerated sexual swellings in primates 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;23(4):699-706.
The exaggerated sexual swellings exhibited by females of some primate species have been of interest to evolutionary biologists since the time of Darwin. We summarize existing hypotheses for their function and evolution and categorize these hypotheses within the context of 3 types of variation in sexual swelling size: 1) variation within a single sexual cycle, 2) variation between the sexual cycles of a single female, and 3) differences between females. We then propose the Paternal Care Hypothesis for the function of sexual swellings, which posits that exaggerated sexual swellings function to elicit the right quantity and quality of male care for a female's infant. As others have noted, swellings may allow females to engender paternity confusion, or they may allow females to confer relative paternal certainty on one male. Key to our hypothesis is that both of these scenarios create an incentive for one or more males to provide care. This hypothesis builds on previous hypotheses but differs from them by highlighting the elicitation of paternal care as a key function of swellings. Our hypothesis predicts that true paternal care (in which males accurately differentiate and provide assistance to their own offspring) will be most common in species in which exaggerated swellings accurately signal the probability of conception, and males can monopolize females during the window of highest conception probability. Our hypothesis also predicts that females will experience selection to behave in ways that either augment paternity confusion or enhance paternal certainty depending on their social and demographic contexts.
PMCID: PMC3999376  PMID: 24771988
infanticide; parental care; primates; sexual swellings
5.  Eyespot display in the peacock butterfly triggers antipredator behaviors in naïve adult fowl 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;24(1):305-310.
Large conspicuous eyespots have evolved in multiple taxa and presumably function to thwart predator attacks. Traditionally, large eyespots were thought to discourage predator attacks because they mimicked eyes of the predators’ own predators. However, this idea is controversial and the intimidating properties of eyespots have recently been suggested to simply be a consequence of their conspicuousness. Some lepidopteran species include large eyespots in their antipredation repertoire. In the peacock butterfly, Inachis io, eyespots are typically hidden during rest and suddenly exposed by the butterfly when disturbed. Previous experiments have shown that small wild passerines are intimidated by this display. Here, we test whether eyespots also intimidate a considerably larger bird, domestic fowl, Gallus gallus domesticus, by staging interactions between birds and peacock butterflies that were sham-painted or had their eyespots painted over. Our results show that birds typically fled when peacock butterflies performed their display regardless of whether eyespots were visible or painted over. However, birds confronting butterflies with visible eyespots delayed their return to the butterfly, were more vigilant, and more likely to utter alarm calls associated with detection of ground-based predators, compared with birds confronting butterflies with eyespots painted over. Because production of alarm calls and increased vigilance are antipredation behaviors in the fowl, their reaction suggests that eyespots may elicit fear rather than just an aversion to conspicuous patterns. Our results, therefore, suggest that predators perceive large lepidopteran eyespots as belonging to the eyes of a potential predator.
PMCID: PMC3518204  PMID: 23243378
chicken; predator–prey interactions; startle display
6.  Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in breeds of the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris  
Behavioral Ecology  2012;24(1):293-304.
Although many herbivores and omnivores have been shown to balance their intake of macronutrients when faced with nutritionally variable foods, study of this ability has been relatively neglected in carnivores, largely on the assumption that prey are less variable in nutrient composition than the foods of herbivores and omnivores and such mechanisms therefore unnecessary. We performed diet selection studies in 5 breeds of adult dog (Canis lupus familiaris) to determine whether these domesticated carnivores regulate macronutrient intake. Using nutritional geometry, we show that the macronutrient content of the diet was regulated to a protein:fat:carbohydrate ratio of approximately 30%:63%:7% by energy, a value that was remarkably similar across breeds. These values, which the analysis suggests are dietary target values, are based on intakes of dogs with prior experience of the respective experimental food combinations. On initial exposure to the diets (i.e., when naive), the same dogs self-selected a diet that was marginally but significantly lower in fat, suggesting that learning played a role in macronutrient regulation. In contrast with the tight regulation of macronutrient ratios, the total amount of food and energy eaten was far higher than expected based on calculated maintenance energy requirements. We interpret these results in relation to the evolutionary history of domestic dogs and compare them to equivalent studies on domestic cats.
PMCID: PMC3518205  PMID: 23243377
Canis lupus; carnivore nutrition; domestication; domestic dog; geometric framework; macronutrient regulation; predation; right-angled mixture triangles
7.  Green symphonies: a call for studies on acoustic communication in plants 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;24(4):789-796.
Sound and its use in communication have significantly contributed to shaping the ecology, evolution, behavior, and ultimately the success of many animal species. Yet, the ability to use sound is not a prerogative of animals. Plants may also use sound, but we have been unable to effectively research what the ecological and evolutionary implications might be in a plant’s life. Why should plants emit and receive sound and is there information contained in those sounds? I hypothesize that it would be particularly advantageous for plants to learn about the surrounding environment using sound, as acoustic signals propagate rapidly and with minimal energetic or fitness costs. In fact, both emission and detection of sound may have adaptive value in plants by affecting responses in other organisms, plants, and animals alike. The systematic exploration of the functional, ecological, and evolutionary significance of sound in the life of plants is expected to prompt a reinterpretation of our understanding of these organisms and galvanize the emergence of novel concepts and perspectives on their communicative complexity.
PMCID: PMC3677178  PMID: 23754865
behavior; bioacoustics; communication; frequencies; plants signaling; sound.
8.  Do men’s faces really signal heritable immunocompetence? 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;24(3):579-589.
In the literature on human mate choice, masculine facial morphology is often proposed to be an intersexual signal of heritable immunocompetence, and hence an important component of men’s attractiveness. This hypothesis has received considerable research attention, and is increasingly treated as plausible and well supported. In this article, we propose that the strength of the evidence for the immunocompetence hypothesis is somewhat overstated, and that a number of difficulties have been under-acknowledged. Such difficulties include (1) the tentative nature of the evidence regarding masculinity and disease in humans, (2) the complex and uncertain picture emerging from the animal literature on sexual ornaments and immunity, (3) the absence of consistent, cross-cultural support for the predictions of the immunocompetence hypothesis regarding preferences for masculinized stimuli, and (4) evidence that facial masculinity contributes very little, if anything, to overall attractiveness in real men. Furthermore, alternative explanations for patterns of preferences, in particular the proposal that masculinity is primarily an intrasexual signal, have been neglected. We suggest that immunocompetence perspectives on masculinity, whilst appealing in many ways, should still be regarded as speculative, and that other perspectives–and other traits–should be the subject of greater attention for researchers studying human mate preferences.
PMCID: PMC3613940  PMID: 23555177
attractiveness; competition; faces; female choice; humans; immunocompetence; males; masculinity; mate preferences; testosterone
9.  Wind selectivity and partial compensation for wind drift among nocturnally migrating passerines 
Behavioral Ecology  2012;23(5):1089-1101.
A migrating bird’s response to wind can impact its timing, energy expenditure, and path taken. The extent to which nocturnal migrants select departure nights based on wind (wind selectivity) and compensate for wind drift remains unclear. In this paper, we determine the effect of wind selectivity and partial drift compensation on the probability of successfully arriving at a destination area and on overall migration speed. To do so, we developed an individual-based model (IBM) to simulate full drift and partial compensation migration of juvenile Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus) along the southwesterly (SW) European migration corridor to the Iberian coast. Various degrees of wind selectivity were tested according to how large a drift angle and transport cost (mechanical energy per unit distance) individuals were willing to tolerate on departure after dusk. In order to assess model results, we used radar measurements of nocturnal migration to estimate the wind selectivity and proportional drift among passerines flying in SW directions. Migration speeds in the IBM were highest for partial compensation populations tolerating at least 25% extra transport cost compared to windless conditions, which allowed more frequent departure opportunities. Drift tolerance affected migration speeds only weakly, whereas arrival probabilities were highest with drift tolerances below 20°. The radar measurements were indicative of low drift tolerance, 25% extra transport cost tolerance and partial compensation. We conclude that along migration corridors with generally nonsupportive winds, juvenile passerines should not strictly select supportive winds but partially compensate for drift to increase their chances for timely and accurate arrival.
PMCID: PMC3431116  PMID: 22936843
individual-based model; partial compensation; passerine migration; vector orientation; wind drift; wind selectivity

Results 1-9 (9)