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.

Download full-text


Available from: Sasha R X Dall, Jun 29, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Pollinators have the capability of discriminating a wide variety of floral cues in order to identify rewarding flowers. However, little is known about how possible ecological or functional implications of horizontal and vertical positioning of flowers affect pollinator decision making. Flowers are commonly either arranged horizontally in meadows or vertically in inflorescences and blooming trees or bushes. Using bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), we here investigate if these 2 different foraging scenarios affect decision-making accuracy using an operant learning paradigm. Training foragers to feeders arranged either horizontally or vertically but bearing identical color or pattern cues, we found a highly significant and consistent difference in feeder choice accuracy. Bees presented with horizontally arranged feeders achieved accuracies of more than 90% by the end of the training. In contrast, bees foraging on vertically arranged feeders largely disregarded the feeder cues and accuracies remained well below 70%. Apart from feeder arrangement (horizontal, vertical) neither cue type (color, pattern), feeder display orientation (horizontal, vertical) nor vertical feeder distribution contributed significantly to choice accuracy. Training bees successively on vertical, horizontal, and vertical feeder arrays revealed that individual bees are capable of discriminating the presented feeder cues with high precision on the horizontal plane but did not use the acquired knowledge on subsequently presented vertically arranged feeders. Our results indicate that the spatial arrangement of flowers has marked effects on the foraging strategy employed by a generalist pollinator. We discuss the broader implications of foragers selectively allocating attention to focus on or disregard environmental information depending on spatial context.
    Behavioral Ecology 05/2015; 26(3). DOI:10.1093/beheco/arv010 · 3.16 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Dispersal is increasingly recognized as being an informed process, based on information organisms obtain about the landscape. While local conditions are often found to drive dispersal decisions, local context is not always a reliable predictor of conditions in neighbouring patches, making the use of local information potentially useless or even maladaptive. In this case, using social information gathered by immigrants might allow adjusting dispersal decisions without paying the costs of prospecting. However, this hypothesis has been largely neglected despite its major importance for ecological and evolutionary processes. We investigated three fundamental questions about immigrant informed dispersal: do immigrants convey information that influences dispersal, do organisms use multiple cues from immigrants, and is immigrant informed dispersal genotype-dependent? Using Tetrahymena thermophila ciliates in microcosms, we manipulated the number of immigrants arriving, the density of congeners and resource quality in neighbouring patches, matrix characteristics and the level of cooperation of individuals in the neighbouring populations. We provide the first experimental evidence that immigrants convey a number of different cues about neighbouring patches and matrix (patch quality, matrix characteristics, and cooperation in neighbouring populations) in this relatively simple organism. Furthermore, we demonstrate genotype-dependent immigrant-informed dispersal decisions about patch quality and matrix characteristics. Multiple cues from immigrants and genotype-dependent use of cues have major implications for theoretical metapopulation dynamics and the potential for local adaptation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Journal of Animal Ecology 04/2015; DOI:10.1111/1365-2656.12380 · 4.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Nest predation is a key source of selection for birds that has attracted increasing attention from ornithologists. The inclusion of new concepts applicable to nest predation that stem from social information, eavesdropping or physiology has expanded our knowledge considerably. Recent methodological advancements now allow focus on all three players within nest predation interactions: adults, offspring and predators. Indeed, the study of nest predation now forms a vital part of avian research in several fields, including animal behaviour, population ecology, evolution and conservation biology. However, within nest predation research there are important aspects that require further development, such as the comparison between ecological and evolutionary an-tipredator responses, and the role of anthropogenic change. We hope this review of recent findings and the presentation of new research avenues will encourage researchers to study this important and interesting selective pressure, and ultimately will help us to better understand the biology of birds.
    Journal of Ornithology 04/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10336-015-1207-4 · 1.93 Impact Factor