Week 11


Nov 8th 9:00 AM

Mikey and Morganfish

Hancoxa,D., Hoskin, C.J., and Wilson, R.S. (2010) Evening up the score: sexual selection favours both alternatives in the colour-polymorphic ornate rainbowfish. Animal Behaviour 80: 845e851

Discussion Questions

1. propose a hypothesis for why only females display negative assortative mating, and why all males prefer red females. Wouldn't heterozygosity be advantageous for both sexes?

2. propose a study to determine if the rarer morph is always preferred by males, or if there something special about red females.

3. If the red morph takes more energy to maintain, and is an honest signal of fitness, why does the proportion of red make no difference in selection experiments? What reason does the paper give for this apparent discrepancy?


Will Gester and Sarah Wesleymamtids

Barry, K.L., Holwell, G.I., Herberstein, M.E. (2010) Multimodal mate assessment by male praying mantids in a sexually cannibalistic mating system. Animal Behaviour 79:1165-1172.

Discussion Questions

1. Why is their hypothesis that cost is proportional to choosiness a good or bad initial hypothesis?

2. How is their ecological explanation of the results colored by their experimental methods?

3. Propose an experiment to test the proposals that they make in their conclusion regarding the ecological reasons that male mantids may not be choosy.

Jason Leonard and Emily Fongwasp

Shilpaa, M.C., Sena, R., Gadagkar, R. (2010) Nestmateship and body size do not influence mate choice in males and females: A laboratory study of a primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata. Behavioural Processes 85 42–46.

Discussion Questions

1. Since the context of this study isn't very representative of real wasp
interactions, are these results meaningful?

2. How can the results of this study be viewed as an adaptive strategy in light of this? Does it demonstrate anything interesting or signifiant about the possible evolutionary pressures on the species?

Nov 8th 10:00 AM

Jack and Caitlin

Webster, J.P., P. H. L. Lamberton, C. A. Donnelly, E. F. Torrey (2006) Parasites as Causative Agents of Human Affective Disorders? The Impact of Anti-Psychotic, Mood-Stabilizer and Anti-Parasite Medication on Toxoplasma gondii's Ability to Alter Host Behavior. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 273:1023-1030

Discussion Questions

1 - Is it justifiable to claim that rats are attracted to cats based only on olfactory stimuli? Would it be better or worse to include videos, still images, sounds or other forms of stimuli? Would these factors complicate the data?

2 - Do you think it's advisable to treat T gondii with antipsychotic drugs despite the side effects? What other precautions could or should justifiably be taken? Is T gondii a significant threat worthy of treatment in humans? Is schizophrenia in humans comparable to predator attraction in rats?

3 – Is there a better way to determine whether rats are risking being eaten than by observing some of the behaviors used in this study? Are all of these behaviors viable indicators of risk?

Quinn and Isabel

O'Riain, M.J. Jarvis, J. M.U. (1997) Colony member recognition and xenophobia in the naked mole-rat. Anim. Behav., 53, 487–498.

Discussion Questions

1. O'Riain and Jarvis assume that the delegation of colony defense to the colony's larger, older members has been selected for due to the preference of such members to reduce colony size and thus preserve their chances of potential reproduction. Given the data gathered by their experiments, is this a safe assumption to make? How would you design an experiment whereby this assumption could be more directly tested?

2. In the last paragraph of their results section, O'Riain and Jarvis note that "All experimental animals were accepted back into their resident colony within ten minutes." This includes those individuals exposed to foreign and blank odor treatments. This eventual re-acceptance is curiously not expanded upon within the paper. Is it possible that some other mechanism besides scent recognition allows for the identification of mole-rats within a colony?

3. At the end of the paper, O'Riain and Jarvis state that the ability of naked mole-rats to maintain colony autonomy may be essential for their survival. What environmental pressures do you think may necessitate this autonomy?


Nov. 10th 9:00 AM

ET and Grahambee

Eltz T., Sager, A., Luna, K., (2005) Juggling with volatiles: exposure of perfumes by displaying male orchid bee. J Comp Physiol A 191: 575–581

Discussion Questions

1. Assume that the purpose of this behavior is for courtship and that the floral compounds obtained from orchids is successful at increasing a males chance to reproduce. Would you consider this approach to follow the good genes, sexy sons, or nuptial gift model and why?

2. Given what you now know about Euglossine bee morphology and behavior, describe the next experiment called for in this paper. How would you figure out at which sex this behavior is aimed?

3. We think plant/animal mutualism is pretty cool, but couldn't think of a good question for it. What about this behavior is mutualism? (Perhaps it is coevolution?)


Emily C. and Madelinbrain

Sol D, Garcia N, Iwaniuk A, Davis K, Meade A, Boyle, W.A .and Szekely, T. (2010) Evolutionary Divergence in Brain Size between Migratory and Resident Birds. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9617. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009617

Discussion Questions

1. The paper discusses the sources and modifications of their data set extensively, as though giving readers as much information as possible and allowing them the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about the accuracy of the results. Do any aspects of their data manipulations seem to compromise the legitimacy of their analysis? What might be sources of skepticism or assurance?

2. This experiment purports to demonstrate a correlation between brain size and migratory behavior. Brainstorm ways to test or explore potential underlying mechanisms behind this observation, emphasizing genetic or molecular analysis not employed in this paper.

3. Consider the confounding variables discussed (ie, seasonality, diet, social behaviors, incubation). Can you think of other potential variable that might have been overlooked? What effect might these have on the results obtained?



Lauren Carley and Jessie Ellingtonvoices

Vukovic, J., Jone, B.C., DeBruine, L., Feinberg D.R. Smith, F.G., Little, A.C., Welling, L.M., Maina, J. (2010) Women's own voice pitch predicts their preferences for masculinity in men's voice. Behavioral Ecology doi:10.1093.

Discussion Questions

1. Would you consider this an animal behavior study, or a psychology study? Both? Although it was published in Behavioral Ecology, all of the authors are listed as part of the Psychology department of their institution.

2. The authors cite prior studies that indicate some beneficial characteristics associated with less masculine traits in men (e.g. men with more feminine characteristics are more likely to invest resources in mates and offspring). Given this, it seems that what females consider to be most physically attractive may not actually correlate with the best mates. Propose a future study that could explore whether or not females' initial judgment of attractiveness in males actually influences mate choice. Since this would difficult to do in humans, what would be a good animal to use instead?



Nov 10th 10:00 AM

Terra and Wick moth

Kalberer, N. M. , C. E. Reisenman and J. G. Hildebrand (2010) Male moths bearing transplanted female antennae express characteristically female behaviour and central neural activity. Journal of Experimental Biology 213, 1272-1280transplant

Discussion Questions

Assess the control group and attempts to minimize errors in the materials and methods section. -> examples?

What do you think about the explanation for how the stunted antenna affected flight stability? Can this be tested in follow-up experiments? Does the paper inspire any other follow-up experiments?

How does a change in perception lead to a change in behavior? In the experiment, the mere fact that the male moths were able to detect the scent of the tomato plants in a certain way (i.e., the way a female detects the scent) dramatically changed how they behaved.
If we replaced a normal human eye with a snake or cuttlefish eye, how would it affect our behavior? Our organs apparently are not passive receptors of information.


Lucy and Wren


Takahashi, A., Sato, K., Nishikawa, J., Watanuki , Y. and Naito Y. (2010) Synchronous diving behavior of Adélie penguins. Journal of Ethology Volume: 5-1. DOI: 10.1007/s10164-003-0111-1


Discussion Questions

1. Direct benefit of synchronized foraging behavior has not been shown, can you speculate any benefits from synchronized foraging that are thus far unexplained?

2. Is this study conclusive without tagging and measuring the movements of all the penguins in one diving group? Would a study that looked at a single group give different results?

3. They conclude that the reason the deeper diving penguins have shorter undulating time is to synchronize surfacing with the shallow diving penguins, why would there be a benefit to post-foraging synchronization. Couldn?t it just be an effect of increased energy use in deeper diving and thus more oxygen use?



Rachel and Ellaoct.

HANLON, R.T., WATSON, A., AND BARBOSA, A.(201 ) A "Mimic Octopus" in the Atlantic: Flatfish Mimicry and Camouflage by Macrotritopus defilippi. Biol. Bull. 218: 15–24.

Discussion Questions

1. The authors say in the introduction that very little is known about this particular species, particularly in the wild; how does this affect our interpretation of this paper?  Does it have any effect?  How can we understand the relative importance of this finding without knowing practically anything about the species?  Is it even worthwhile to investigate behavior when we don't even have basic biological knowledge?

2. How could the authors have made this study more relevant?  Could they have used statistical methods, collected data on when/where M. defilippi did NOT use flatfish mimicry, etc. to show some kind of correlation between camouflage/mimicry use and situation?  Is there a follow-up you’d like to see?

3. The authors never specify why M. defilippi mimics the flatfish – no real mention of major predators of either the octopus or the fish.  What are some reasons M. defilippi might choose the flatfish to mimic instead of some other species common to the area, especially if there aren’t many natural predators of the octopus?  What advantage would mimicry confer at all besides predator avoidance?  Why might the authors of this paper choose not to discuss M. defilippi predators or propose alternative hypotheses to explain the mimicry?













Nov. 12th

Foraging Behaviorcrow

The principles of foraging are common to all animal species, even if the actual behaviors exhibited are very diverse. The foraging process can be though of as a number of decisions made by the forager. These decisions must be made based upon available information, past experience, and neural calculations.

Dugatkin Chapter 10


EXTRA READING (not required)
Douglas, Ken Dawson-Scully and Marla B. Sokolowski (2005) The neurogenetics and evolution of food-related bhaviour. Trends in Neuroscience 128:644-652.mole
Catania & Remple (2005) Asymptotic prey profitability drives star-nosed moles to the foraging speed limit. Nature 433:519.

This is one of my favorites! Every year at neuroscience I look to see what new work has been done with this amazing animal. I enjoy this research program because it really considers all 4 of Tinbergen's questions simultaneously (you won't see that in this paper but, read more and you will).