Taking animal decisions seriously: the roles of culture and experience in the ecology and evolution of migratory behaviour by barnacle geese
Abstract: Arctic breeding birds are facing strong ecological changes along their migration routes, which requires them to adjust their strategies. What are the inheritance mechanisms of migratory behaviour, and how do they help or constrain species in changing it? Barnacle geese breeding on Spitsbergen face changes in food phenology along their staging sites. More than forty years of observations in the UK, along the Norwegian coast and on Spitsbergen show a clear response in migratory behaviour. We designed individual-based models to simulate different potential ways in which geese might develop and adjust their migratory behaviour. Using Approximate Bayesian Computation methods, we compared the resulting simulations with the actual patterns that emerge from bird counts and mark-recapture analysis of ring readings. The results suggest that group-decisions are crucial to explain the observed behavioural changes, and that older individuals lead groups, informing their decision by individual experiences. Young geese change strategy more often than older geese. This does not seem to result from a higher tendency to explore, but from a stronger tendency to switch between groups. In other words, it looks like barnacle geese have an advanced cultural system that allows them to respond to trends in environmental conditions spanning several generations.
We also had interesting discussions about other aspects of animal culture, learning, migratory behaviour and ecology and evolutionary biology.
Xiaoyan Long “Coevolution of sex-specific parental roles and the sex ratio”
Timo van Eldijk “Does evolutionary rescue theory predict evolution of antibiotic resistance?”
Apu Ramesh “Eco-evo-devo of migration syndromes”
We are happy to announce that Timo and Apu received poster prizes, 3rd and 2nd place, respectively.
Eco-evolutionary implications of climate change
Abstract: Environmental conditions play a major role in determining the survival and reproduction of individuals and the long-term persistence of populations. In this talk, I will go over the different approaches my team has taken to explore how animals cope with and adapt to variable and unpredictable conditions and to understand how these eco-evolutionary feedback loops are ultimately responsible for shaping biological communities.
Eco-devo insights to adaptive diversity
- Irene Adrian-Kachhauser, Basel (CH)
- Claudia Keller Valsecchi, Freiburg (GE)
- Lisa Shama, Wilhelmshaven (GE)
- Helen Spence-Jones, St. Andrews (UK)
- Sonia Sultan, Wesleyan (USA)
- Franjo Weissing, Groningen (NL)
When philosophy and biology meet – On the evolutionary individuality of biofilms
Abstract: In this talk, I explore how combining work from philosophy of science and biology can help understand complex evolutionary questions. As a case study, I explore recent discussions on the status of biofilms as evolutionary individuals. From a biological perspective, data on biofilms is abundant. However, high functional integration within the microbial communities that form biofilms makes it hard to decide whether such a community should be considered as an evolutionary individual, or as a ‘mere’ collection of individual cells. From a philosophical point of view, either interpretation is a theoretical possibility: the challenge lies in connecting these possibilities to actual biological studies on biofilms. By investigating the evolutionary concepts of heredity and selection, I argue that the interpretation of these concepts is key in how biologists draw conclusions from their data. The reverse is also the case: philosophers of science rely heavily on their interpretation of the biological literature when they elaborate their conceptual analyses and argue in favour of or against a particular interpretation of above evolutionary concepts. I conclude with some practical recommendations on how a combined philosophical and biological approach can complement either research effort, and lead to more fruitful discussions in both areas of investigation to boot.
Can plasticity create irreversible constraints?