Week 12 - Nov. 18th
A Model Based Approach
to Feeding Beavior(Discussion Question Day)
MOODLE: Post and comment on primary research papers that test hypotheses
generated by optimal foraging theory. Evaluate whether the chosen papes
are "a complete waste of time" as claimed by Pierce and Ollalson.
Answer 2 of the following 4 questions. (download
Try to use specific examples and comments from these opinion papers.
Bring your answers to class and be prepared to discuss and amend
1) In your opinion, which paper contributes to scientific progress?
Defend your opinion with examples (quotes or summarized points) from
2) The principle of adaptation maintains that the process
of natural selection has shaped the behaviors we observe in animals. Piece
and Ollason repeatedly state that this assumption should not be applied to feeding behavior. Even Stearns
and Schmid-Hemple acquiesce that "optimal strategies may not occur
in nature". How then can they defend the field of optimal
foraging theory? Identify 2-3 concrete objections to "optimality" and
rebuttals to these objections that support the continued study of OFT..
3) What is a model? How should models be used in science? Should they
be used to study foraging behavior?
4) Identify 3 points on which Stearns and Schmid-Hemple actually agree
with Piece and Ollason.
Essential Animal Behavior ch.6
Pierce & Olalson
(1987) Eight Reasons Why optimal Foraging Theory is a Complete Waste
of Time. Oikos 49:111-118.
Stearns & Schmid-Hempl
(1987) Evolutionary Insights Should Not Be Wasted. Oikos 49:118-125..
IF WE FINISH THE DISCUSION EARLY WE WILL START ON THE FOLLOWING THEORETICAL
These papers use mathematical models from game theory, and
also borrow heavily from the field of mathematical economics. Today,
models are taken for granted in biology but they are a relatively recent
addition to the study of animal behavior. The concept of an "Evolutionarily
Stable Strategy" was introduced in 1973 (Smith and Price, 1973)
and has been very valuable since for analyzing situations in which the
fitness consequences of a particular action depend on the activities
of other individuals in the population. Although models are admittedly
simplifications, they allow us to formulate testable hypotheses to quantify
important varialbes in the process of natural selection.
What do these four things have in common?
Guys Finish Last" in The Selfish Gene Chp. 12
This is long but it is an easy read and a classic citation.
Week 12 - Nov. 20th
Neural Basis of Decision Making
Following from Tuesday,
here are some more recent papers that employ game theory to understand
animal behavior read one of them:
al (2006) Self-recognition, color signals, and cycles of greenbeard
mutualism and altruism PNAS 103:7372-7377.
Queller et al (2003) Single-Gene
Greenbeard Effects in the Social Amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Science
Keller et al., (1998) Selfishgene:
a greenbeard in the red fire ant. Nature:394:573-575.
We talk about "the games animals play" but how do they play
them? While we are still a long way away from understanding how the brain
makes complex decisions, neural recording from primates during cognitive
tasks has offered ignificant insight to this problem. Again, borrowing
from game theory and mathematical economics, researchers are showing
that neural circuits, or individual neurons are playing these games.
This very new field is called "Neuroeconomics" and attracts interest
from many researchers outside of biology, such as sociology, political
science, and of course economics.
Lee, D. (2008) Game
theory and neural basis of social decision making. Nature
and for a different perspective.
Do economists need brains? 2008 Economist
If you want to try the primary literature instead of a review, I
Sugrue, L.P., Corrado,
G.S., and Newsome, W.T. (2005) Chooseing the Greater of Two Goods:
Neural Currencies for Valuation and Decision Making. Nat Rev Neurosci 6:363-375.
Roesch M.R. and Olson,
C.R. (2004) Neuronal
Activity Related to Reward Value and Motivation in Primate Frontal Cortex.