Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (BEHAV ECOL SOCIOBIOL )

Publisher: Springer Verlag


The journal publishes reviews and original contributions dealing with quantitative empirical and theoretical studies in the field of the analyis of animal behavior on the level of the individual population and community. Special emphasis is placed on the proximate mechanisms ultimate functions and evolution of ecological adaptations of behavior. Aspects of particular interest: Intraspecific behavioral interactions with special emphasis on social behavior Interspecific behavioral mechanisms e.g. of competition and resource partitioning mutualism predator-prey interactions parasitism Behavioral ecophysiology Orientation in space and time Relevant evolutionary and functional theory Purely descriptive material is not acceptable for publication unless it is concerned with the analysis of behavioral mechanisms or with new theory.

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    Behavioral ecology and sociobiology (Online), Behav ecol sociobiol
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Springer Verlag

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Publications in this journal

  • Sándor Papp, Ernő Vincze, Bálint Preiszner, András Liker, Veronika Bókony
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioural flexibility is an important component of adaptation because it can help animals to exploit new or diverse habitats. Due to abundance of novel objects and resources provided by humans, urban environments may select for behavioural flexibility, but empirical evidence for this hypothesis is controversial. In this study, we compared urban and rural house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in four foraging problem-solving tasks. In the most difficult task, urban birds with large body mass were faster than others. Urban and rural birds performed similarly in the three easier tasks and did not differ in their learning efficiency. Individuals successful in one task tended to be successful in other tasks, and the repeatability of performance did not differ between urban and rural birds. Individuals that attempted to access food more frequently solved the problem faster in all tasks, but urban and rural birds did not differ in the frequency of attempts. These results suggest that the effects of urbanization on problem-solving success are weak and context-dependent in house sparrows. We propose that while urban animals may be better at exploiting some aspects of novel environments than rural conspecifics, such differences may be modulated by other habitat effects such as reduced nestling development and adult body mass in urban sparrows, which might influence some long-term determinants of innovativeness such as cognitive capacity or physical skills.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
  • Dorothy L. Cheney, Catherine Crockford, Anne L. Engh, Roman M. Wittig, Robert M. Seyfarth
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual selection theory predicts that males in polygynous species of mammals will invest more reproductive effort in mate competition than parental investment. A corollary to this prediction is that males will mount a stress response when their access to mates is threatened. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that males exhibit elevated stress hormones, or glucocorticoids (GCs), when their access to females, or a proxy to this access like dominance rank, is challenged. In contrast, the relationship between stress hormones and paternal effort is less obvious. We report results from a study of wild male chacma baboons indicating that males experienced elevated GC levels during periods of social instability following the immigration of a dominant male. These effects were strongest in males whose mating opportunities were at greatest risk: high-ranking males and males engaged in sexual consortships. Males involved in friendships with lactating females, a form of paternal investment, also experienced high GC levels during these periods of instability. There was a tendency for males with lactating female friends to reduce their time spent in consortships during unstable periods, when the risk of infanticide was high. Thus, even in a highly polygynous mammal, males may have to balance paternal effort with mating effort. Males who invest entirely in mating effort risk losing the infants they have sired to infanticide. Males who invest in paternal care may enhance their offspring’s survival, but at the cost of elevated GC levels, the risk of injury, and the loss of mating opportunities.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: In animal societies, individuals face the dilemma of whether to cooperate or to compete over a shared resource. Two intertwined mechanisms may help to resolve this enduring evolutionary dilemma by preventing conflicts and thereby mediating the costs of living in groups: the establishment of dominance hierarchies and the use of ‘badge-of-status’ for signalling dominance. We investigated these two mechanisms in the sociable weaver (Philetairus socius), a colonial and social passerine which cooperates over multiple tasks. We examined the sociable weavers’ dominance structure in 2 years by recording 2563 agonistic interactions between 152 individuals observed at a feeder at eight colonies. We tested which individual traits, including sex, age, relatedness and two melanin-based plumage traits, predicted variation in social status. First, using social network analysis, we found that colonies were structured by strongly ordered hierarchies which were stable between years. Second, medium-ranked birds engaged more in aggressive interactions than highly ranking individuals, suggesting that competition over food is most pronounced among birds of intermediate social status. Third, we found that colony size and kinship influenced agonistic interactions, so aggression was less pronounced in smaller colonies and among relatives. Finally, within- and between-individual variation in social status and the presence of an individual at the feeder were associated with variation in bib size, as predicted by the badge-of-status hypothesis. These results suggest that dominance hierarchies and bib size mediate conflicts in sociable weaver societies.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Synchronous development is widespread throughout the animal kingdom, but how synchrony is achieved remains largely unknown. I examined whether (1) a group-living rhinoceros beetle Trypoxylus dichotomus prepares for pupation (i.e. prepupates) synchronously in the field, (2) whether the synchrony occurs through social interactions, and (3) whether the synchrony incurs physiological costs. I found that larvae prepupate synchronously within natural humus sites. Laboratory experiments show that, when pairs of larvae are placed in the same cage, they prepupate on almost the same day, while two larvae chosen from different cages are expected to prepupate at 6-day intervals. I examined the mechanism of synchronous prepupation by inducing maturity asynchrony between two individuals. Less advanced larvae shortened the larval period in the presence of more advanced neighbours, whilst advanced individuals prolonged the larval periods in the presence of less advanced neighbours. However, variations in the prolongation or shortening of the larval period were dependant on the sites from which the larvae were collected, and in no site did both prolongation and shortening occur together. When the larval periods were prolonged or shortened, the body weight of the resulting pupae decreased. These data show that larvae of this species alter the timing of prepupation depending on the maturity of their neighbours. This developmental plasticity is likely to incur physiological costs due to pupation in suboptimal timing. The pupae and prepupae of this species may gain some benefits such as predator avoidance through the synchrony, which outweigh the cost in terms of reduced body weight.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: In mammals, including humans, the most consistent cognitive sex difference appears to be a male advantage in spatial ability. Usually, some sex-correlated selective advantage is inferred to explain this, for example, the need for males to navigate over large territories. In birds, sex differences in learning abilities are rare. Here, we show that females of a common European songbird, the great tit, do clearly better than males in an observational memorization task. We allowed caged great tits to observe food-caching marsh tits in an indoor aviary. One hour later, the great tits were released to search for the cached food. Females consistently performed better than males in this task. The results are remarkable for several reasons: (i) a sex difference in a cognitive ability of such a magnitude is unusual; (ii) most sex differences in spatial ability that have been reported so far concerns a male advantage; and perhaps most remarkably, (iii) female great tits were as successful in relocating the cached food as the hoarding marsh tits themselves. We hypothesize that female great tits are better at this than males because they are subordinate foragers. Males have prior access to food in nature and can easily displace females. Females will then benefit from a special ability to memorize caching positions that makes it possible for them to return and retrieve the food later when males are not around.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Males can through their behavior (e.g., courtship feeding) exert an indirect effect on their partner’s reproductive traits, such as the seasonal timing and size of her clutch. Evidence for such indirect (male) effect on reproduction is starting to accumulate. We quantify female and male effects on reproduction in the tawny owl Strix aluco using a hierarchical mixed model on data collected in 1978–2013. We find that differences between males explain 7 % of the phenotypic variance in laying date (females 5 %). In contrast, females have a clear (11 %) effect on clutch size, whereas males have no effect. Based on multivariate hierarchical modeling, we find an individual-level correlation between the male-specific effect on laying date and his body mass (but not his plumage color or wing length). Heavy males may be able to affect their partner’s seasonal timing of laying because of an advantage in providing courtship feeding prior to reproduction. Our findings illustrate that males can be an important determinant of variation in reproduction and that multivariate mixed models present a general approach to pinpoint which individual characteristics could be associated with such indirect effects.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Individual host behavior may be influenced by infectious disease in ways that can alter population-level disease dynamics. A novel pathogen in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, Mycobacterium mungi, has emerged among banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) in Northeastern Botswana. This host–pathogen system provides an opportunity to study how individual behavior and social interactions in a group-living species might respond to infectious disease. We used repeated focal observations of known individuals with an extensive ethogram to identify behavioral differences and social interactions between healthy individuals and those with clinical signs of tuberculosis (TB). Clinically diseased banded mongooses exhibited a significantly smaller proportion of time active and alert, a larger proportion of time resting, and a slower behavioral transition rate compared to healthy individuals. They also showed lower reciprocation of allogrooming by approximately 50 %. Despite these strong behavioral differences that may serve as visible cues for healthy mongooses to avoid diseased conspecifics, we found no evidence for avoidance of clinically diseased mongooses by healthy individuals or vice versa: Clinically diseased individuals did not have lower levels of social behaviors than healthy individuals, and clinically diseased mongooses were allogroomed at the expected level despite their decreased reciprocation. Our results show that in contrast to prior studies of other species, avoidance of diseased conspecifics did not occur in this highly social species. We discuss hypotheses for this lack of avoidance and potential implications for pathogen transmission.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Latrine use (i.e., the repeated use of specific defecation/urination sites) has been described for several mammals, including carnivores, ungulates, and primates. However, the functional significance of latrine use in primates has not been studied systematically yet. We, therefore, followed 14 radio-collared individuals of the pair-living white-footed sportive lemur (Lepilemur leucopus) for 1097 hours of continuous focal observations to investigate latrine distribution, seasonality of latrine use, as well as age and sex of users to test various hypotheses related to possible functions of latrine use, including territory demarcation, resource defense, signaling of reproductive state, social bonding, and mate defense. All individuals of a social unit exhibited communal use of latrines located in the core area of their territory, supporting the social boding hypothesis. Latrine use seems to facilitate familiarity and social bonding within social units via olfactory communication in this primate that lives in family units but exhibits low levels of spatial cohesion and direct social interactions. In addition, frequency of latrine visitation was higher during nights of perceived intruder pressure, supporting the mate defense hypothesis. However, animals did not react to experimentally introduced feces from neighboring or strange social units, indicating that urine may be the more important component of latrines than feces in this arboreal species. Based on a survey of latrine use and function in other mammals, we conclude that latrines facilitate communication particularly in nocturnal species with limited habitat visibility and in species where individuals are not permanently cohesive because they constitute predictable areas for information exchange.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014; 68(12).
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    ABSTRACT: Studying the incidence of inbreeding avoidance is important for understanding the evolution of mating systems, especially in the context of mate choice for genetic compatibility. We investigated whether inbreeding avoidance mechanisms have evolved in the malt fly, Drosophila montana, by measuring mating latency (a measure of male attractiveness), copulation duration, days to remating, offspring production, and the proportion of offspring sired by the first (P1) and second (P2) male to mate in full-sibling and unrelated pairs. SNP markers were used for paternity analysis and for calculating pairwise relatedness values (genotype sharing) between mating pairs. We found 18 % inbreeding depression in egg-to-adult viability, suggesting that mating with close relatives is costly. Copulation duration was shorter between previously mated females and their brothers than with unrelated males. Based on an earlier study, shorter copulation is likely to decrease the number of inbred progeny by decreasing female remating time. However, shorter copulations did not lead to lower paternity (P2) of full-sibling males. Progeny production of double-mated females was lower when the second male was a full-sibling as compared to an unrelated male, but we could not distinguish between inbreeding depression and lower female reproductive effort after mating with a relative. Relatedness estimates based on 34 SNPs did not detect any quantitative effect of relatedness variation on copulation duration and progeny production. We suggest that inbreeding depression has been strong enough to select for inbreeding avoidance mechanisms in our Finnish D. montana population.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014; 68(12).
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual conflict develops when the optimal reproductive strategy for one sex inflicts fitness costs upon the other sex. Among species with intense within-group feeding competition and high costs of reproduction, females are expected to experience reduced foraging efficiency by associating with males, and this may compromise their reproductive ability. Here, we test this hypothesis in chimpanzees, a species with flexible grouping patterns in which female avoidance of large subgroups has been attributed to their relatively high costs of grouping. In an >11-year study of the Kanyawara community of East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Kibale National Park, Uganda, the availability of sexually receptive females was a key determinant of the number of males in parties. In turn, females experienced significantly lower C-peptide of insulin levels, indicative of reduced energy balance, during periods when they associated with more males. Female associates did not produce the same negative effect. C-peptide levels positively and significantly predicted female ovarian steroid production, indicating that the costs of associating with males can lead to downstream reproductive costs. Therefore, we conclude that Kanyawara chimpanzees exhibit sexual conflict over subgroup formation, with the large groupings that allow males to compete for mating opportunities inflicting energetic and reproductive costs on females. Because association with males is central to female chimpanzees’ anti-infanticide strategy, and males may confer other benefits, we propose that reproductive success in female chimpanzees hinges on a delicate balance between the costs and benefits of associating with male conspecifics.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014; 68(12).
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    ABSTRACT: Among acarid mites, a number of species are characterised by the presence of discontinuous morphologies (armed heteromorphs vs. unarmed homeomorphs) associated with alternative mating tactics (fighting vs. scramble competition). In Rhizoglyphus echinopus, expression of the fighter morph is suppressed, via pheromones, in large, dense colonies. If this mechanism is adaptive, fighters should have relatively lower fitness in large and/or dense colonies, due to costs incurred from fighting, which is often fatal. In order to test these predictions, we quantified the survival and mating success of fighters and scramblers in colonies of equal sex and morph ratios; these colonies either differed in size (4, 8, or 32 individuals) but not density or differed in density but not size (all consisted of 8 individuals). We found that the relative survival and mating success of fighters was inversely related to colony size, but we did not find a significant effect of colony density. The higher mating success of fighters in small colonies was due to the fact that, after killing rival males, these fighters were able to monopolise females. This situation was not found in larger colonies, in which there was a larger number of competitors and fighters suffered relatively higher mortality. These results indicate that morph determination, guided by social cues, allows for the adaptive adjustment of mating tactics to existing demographic conditions.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12/2014; 68(12).
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    ABSTRACT: As colonies fill up with more individuals, areas of preferred nesting habitat can become scarce. Individuals attracted to the colony by the presence of conspecifics may then occupy nest sites with different habitat characteristics to that of established breeders and, as a result, experience lower nesting success. We studied a rapidly growing colony of Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus to determine any such changes in nest site characteristics and nesting success of newly used nest locations. Svalbard pink-footed geese are a long-lived migratory species that breeds during the short arctic summer and whose population has doubled since the early 2000s to c. 80,000. From 2003 to 2012 nest numbers increased over five-fold, from 49 to 226, with the majority (range 57-82%) established within 30 m of another nest (total range 1–164 m). Most nests, particularly during the early stages of colony growth, shared common features associated with better protection against predation and closer proximity to food resources; two factors thought key in the evolution of colony formation. As nest numbers within the colony increased, new nests occupied locations where visibility from the nest was restricted and foraging areas were further away. Despite these changes in nest site characteristics, the nesting success of geese using new sites was not lower than that of birds using older nests. Hence, we propose that nesting in dense aggregations may offset any effects of suboptimal nest site characteristics on nesting success via the presence of more adults and the resultant increased vigilance towards predators.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Consistent individual differences in parenting are widespread; however, we know little about why there is variation in parenting behavior among individuals within species. One possible explanation for consistent individual differences in parenting is that individuals invest in different aspects of parental care, such as provisioning or defense. In this field study, we measured consistent individual differences in parenting behavior and evaluated correlations between parenting and other behaviors in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). We repeatedly measured male parenting behavior and male behavior in the presence of three different types of live intruders: a female, a conspecific male, and a predator, meant to provoke courtship, aggressive, and antipredator behavior, respectively. While males plastically adjusted their reactions to different types of intruders, we found consistent individual differences in behavior (behavioral types) both within and across contexts, even after accounting for variation in body size and nest characteristics. Males that performed more parenting behavior responded faster to all types of intruders. These results suggest that in nature, individual male sticklebacks exhibit robust parental behavioral types, and highly parental males are more attentive to their surroundings. Future studies are needed to examine the potential causes of individual variation in parental behavior in the field.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 10/2014;
  • Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 10/2014; 68(10):1701-1710.