BEHAVIOURAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The evolutionary approach to the study of behaviour is of crucial importance to understanding its adaptive value. Hence, the Course is aimed to provide the student with the essential knowledge and tools to analyse classical and more recent topics of the ecology of animal behaviour, by using also a methodological and an experimental approach. The Course deals also with the biological bases of social behaviour in animals (including humans), with particular regard to the selective pressure that determined the development and evolution of different social systems in different taxa. This part of the course will be focused on different aspects of living together, and on the conflicts and cooperation phenomena that occur among members of social groups. The student will acquire the basic concepts of behavioural ecology and sociobiology and will become confident with its methodology so to adequately approach and study eco-ethological problems.
Basic concepts of Zoology and Ethology
Course contents summary
The Course examines the behavioural strategies evolved by animals to tackle different ecological requirements. It deals with the adaptive value of individual and/or social behaviour and how it contributes to animal fitness. The Course analyses the relationships among animals, resources and behavioural strategies to exploit them, trying to identify ultimate causes of the considered strategies. The Course is also aimed to provide information on the basic methodology of behavioural ecology and sociobiology research by analysing models and specific case studies.
1) PRINCIPLES AND METHODS OF BEHAVIOURAL ECOLOGY
2) SOME BASIC CONCEPTS:
- Natural selection, environment and behaviour
- Economy of individual choices, cost/benefit balance
- General concepts
- Predators and preys, parasites and hosts: an evolutionary arms race
- Coevolution between plants and animals
4) COMPETITION FOR RESOURCES:
- Exploitative competition
- Competition through defence and interference
- Economy of resource defence
5) ECOLOGY OF REPRODUCTION
- Males and females: the origin of diversity
- Conflicts between sexes and sexual selection
- Ecology of mating systems and parental care.
6) BEHAVIOURAL ECOLOGY OF SIGNALS
- Structure and design of signals: ecology and evolution
- Costs of communication and origin of signals
7) INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
- Sociobiology: definition, aims and methods
- The social problem: to be or not to be.
- Prime forces of social evolution
- Levels of sociality
- Kinds of social grouping
- Recognition, Communication and division of roles: some basic principles.
8) COOPERATION AND CONFLICT IN ANIMAL SOCIETIES
8.1 COOPERATION AND GROUP LIVING
- LIVING IN GROUP AND DEFENCE AGAINST PREDATORS
- LIVING IN GROUP AND COOPERATION IN FINDING FOOD
- REDUCING THE COSTS OF GROUP LIVING
- GROUP SELECTION: Logic of group selection, validity, critics and new development
- KIN SELECTION
- HELPING OTHERS TO REPRODUCE: altruist or selfish strategy?
- RECIPROCAL ALTRUISM: the "Prisoner's Dilemma"
- SOCIAL PARASITISM
8.3 CONFLICTS AND SOCIAL LIFE
- BASIC CONCEPT OF BIOLOGY OF AGGRESSION
- FIGHTING AND ASSESSMENT
Evolutionarily Stable Strategies (ESS)
Tactics and Strategies
- DOMINANTS AND SUBORDINATES
10) BASIC CONCEPTS OF PRIMATE SOCIALITY
11) HUMAN SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR: an evolutionary approach
Slides and specific articles on international journals available to the students on the web site of the Course.
ETOLOGIA – Un approccio evolutivo.
Zanichelli, Bologna (2001).
ECOLOGIA E COMPORTAMENTO ANIMALE
J.R. Krebs e N.B. Davies
Boringhieri, Torino (2002).
AN INTRODUCTION TO BEHAVIOURAL ECOLOGY
N. B. Davies - J. R. Krebs - Stuart A. West
B. Hölldobler e E.O. Wilson:
Adelphi Edizioni (2011)
Lectures made using also multimedia tools, analysis of classic and more recent case studies. Understanding of the logic and methodology used by researcher in the field of behavioural ecology and sociobiology
Assessment methods and criteria
Oral examination aimed to: verify the capacity of the student to tackle problems of behavioural ecology and sociobiology using the methodological principles and knowledge acquired during the course; verify the ability to analyse case studies; evaluate the student's ability to carry out cross-links between the various topics covered during the Course.