Article

Information and its use by animals in evolutionary ecology

Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter in Cornwall, Tremough Campus, Penryn, UK, TR10 9EZ.
Trends in Ecology & Evolution (Impact Factor: 15.35). 05/2005; 20(4):187-93. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2005.01.010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Information is a crucial currency for animals from both a behavioural and evolutionary perspective. Adaptive behaviour relies upon accurate estimation of relevant ecological parameters; the better informed an individual, the better it can develop and adjust its behaviour to meet the demands of a variable world. Here, we focus on the burgeoning interest in the impact of ecological uncertainty on adaptation, and the means by which it can be reduced by gathering information, from both 'passive' and 'responsive' sources. Our overview demonstrates the value of adopting an explicitly informational approach, and highlights the components that one needs to develop useful approaches to studying information use by animals. We propose a quantitative framework, based on statistical decision theory, for analysing animal information use in evolutionary ecology. Our purpose is to promote an integrative approach to studying information use by animals, which is itself integral to adaptive animal behaviour and organismal biology.

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Available from: Sasha R X Dall, Jul 27, 2015
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    • "novel stimuli are encountered in the absence of any negative outcome (Allen et al. 2002; Rankin et al. 2009). Under conditions of uncertain or unpredictable predation risk, prey may benefit from relying on learned information about the local predation threats (Dall et al. 2005; McNamara and Dall 2010). Phenotypically plastic (induced ) neophobia would allow prey to benefit from behaviourally plastic response patterns while reducing the initial cost of learning (Brown et al. 2011a, 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Exposure to conditions of elevated predation risk, even for relatively short periods, has been shown to induce neophobic responses to novel predators. Such phenotypically plastic responses should allow prey to exhibit costly anti-predator behaviour to novel cues only in situations where the risk of predation is high. While there is evidence that the level of background risk shapes the strength of induced neophobia, we know little about how long neophobic responses are retained. Here we exposed juvenile convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) to three background levels of short-term background risk and then tested their responses to novel predator odours. Cichlids exposed to low risk did not show neophobic responses, while those exposed to intermediate and high risk did. Using extinction trials, we demonstrate that the retention of neophobic responses is greater among cichlids exposed to high versus intermediate predation risk conditions. Moreover, we found much longer retention of the neophobic responses when cichlids were tested a single time compared to when they were tested repeatedly in the extinction trials. This work supports the prediction that neophobic responses to specific odours are relatively long lasting but can quickly wane if the cues are experienced repeatedly without them being associated with risk. It is clear that background level of risk and the frequency of exposure to novel cues are crucial factors in determining the retention of risk-related information among prey.
    Animal Cognition 07/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10071-015-0902-0 · 2.63 Impact Factor
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    • "Foraging animals are well known to identify and use cues that distinguish useful resources from food types that have proved less rewarding (Hassell and Southwood 1978; Bell 1990; Real 1991; Dall et al. 2005). In doing so, spatial context is often integrated with the sensory cues that mark the food types themselves; for example, honeybees can learn to prefer flower color A over B in one spatial location and B over A in another location (Collett and Kelber 1988). "
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    • "Immigrants can thus be a source of information about density in neighbouring patches to adjust dispersal decisions without paying the costs of prospecting (Cote & Clobert 2007). This process might thus be a form of social information use, which can either be based on evolved signals or cues inadvertently provided by immigrants (Danchin et al. 2004; Doligez, P€ art & Danchin 2004; Dall et al. 2005). In the context of dispersal decisions, the existence of social information use might affect metapopulation and evolutionary dynamics (Cote & Clobert 2007; Clobert et al. 2009). "
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