Information and its use by animals in evolutionary ecology. Trends Ecol Evol

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, Aug 20, 2015
    • "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). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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
  • Source
    • "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). "
    [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
    • "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). "
    [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
Show more