Meeting Abstract

S6-2.1  Sunday, Jan. 6  Behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC) SIH, A.; University of California, Davis

A key issue in animal behaviour is the need to understand variation in behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change (habitat loss, exotic species, pollution, human harvesting, and climate change). Why do some individuals exhibit maladaptive behaviors, while others show adaptive responses to evolutionarily novel situations? At present, we lack a unified conceptual framework for generating predictions and guiding empirical and theoretical work on this critical question. Drawing from the concept of ecological traps, I suggest that a conceptual framework for explaining this variation should include 4 main points: 1) behavioral responses (adaptive or not) are the result of cue-response systems, or behavioral ‘rules of thumb’; 2) limited or imprecise, unreliable information often underlies suboptimal behavior; 3) the organism’s behavioral flexibility affects its response to novel situations, and 4) evolution (and development) in past environments has shaped cue-response systems, responses to imperfect information, and degree of behavioral flexibility to be adaptive in past environments, but not necessarily in novel environments. The degree of match/ mismatch between past environments and novel environments altered by HIREC is thus a key to explaining adaptive vs maladaptive behaviors. I discuss several existing frameworks that address these 4 points, and that are thus potentially useful for explaining behavioral responses to HIREC: signal detection theory, adaptive plasticity theory, extended reaction norms, and cost-benefit theory on variation in learning. I further discuss more complex aspects of reality that it would be useful to add to these existing frameworks.