Matching Items (6)

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The Decision Behavior of Ant Colonies in Response to an Ebbinghaus Illusion

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Evolutionary theory predicts that animal behavior is generally governed by decision rules (heuristics) which adhere to ecological rationality: the tendency to make decisions that maximize fitness in most situations the

Evolutionary theory predicts that animal behavior is generally governed by decision rules (heuristics) which adhere to ecological rationality: the tendency to make decisions that maximize fitness in most situations the animal encounters. However, the particular heuristics used by ant colonies of the genus Temnothorax and their propensity towards ecological rationality are up for debate. These ants are adept at choosing a nest site, making a collective decision based on complex interactions between the many individual choices made by workers. Colonies will migrate between nests either upon the destruction of their current home or the discovery of a sufficiently superior nest. This study offers a descriptive analysis of the heuristics potentially used in nest-site decision-making. Colonies were offered a choice of nests characterized by the Ebbinghaus Illusion: a perceptual illusion which effectively causes the viewer to perceive a circle as larger when it is surrounded by small circles than when that same circle is surrounded by large circles. Colonies were separated into two conditions: in one, they were given the option to move to a high-quality nest surrounded by poor-quality nests, and in the other they were given the option to move to a high-quality nest surrounded by medium-quality nests. The colonies in the poor condition were found to be more likely to move to the good nest than were colonies in the medium condition at a statistically significant level. That is, they responded to the Ebbinghaus Effect in the way that is normally expected. This result was discussed in terms of its implications for the ecological rationality of the nest-site choice behavior of these ants.

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  • 2014-05

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Puzzling connections between behavior, spectral photoreceptor classes and visual system simplification: branchiopod crustaceans and unconventional color vision

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Why do many animals possess multiple classes of photoreceptors that vary in the wavelengths of light to which they are sensitive? Multiple spectral photoreceptor classes are a requirement for true

Why do many animals possess multiple classes of photoreceptors that vary in the wavelengths of light to which they are sensitive? Multiple spectral photoreceptor classes are a requirement for true color vision. However, animals may have unconventional vision, in which multiple spectral channels broaden the range of wavelengths that can be detected, or in which they use only a subset of receptors for specific behaviors. Branchiopod crustaceans are of interest for the study of unconventional color vision because they express multiple visual pigments in their compound eyes, have a simple repertoire of visually guided behavior, inhabit unique and highly variable light environments, and possess secondary neural simplifications. I first tested the behavioral responses of two representative species of branchiopods from separate orders, Streptocephalus mackini Anostracans (fairy shrimp), and Triops longicaudatus Notostracans (tadpole shrimp). I found that they maintain vertical position in the water column over a broad range of intensities and wavelengths, and respond behaviorally even at intensities below those of starlight. Accordingly, light intensities of their habitats at shallow depths tend to be dimmer than terrestrial habitats under starlight. Using models of how their compound eyes and the first neuropil of their optic lobe process visual cues, I infer that both orders of branchiopods use spatial summation from multiple compound eye ommatidia to respond at low intensities. Then, to understand if branchiopods use unconventional vision to guide these behaviors, I took electroretinographic recordings (ERGs) from their compound eyes and used models of spectral absorptance for a multimodel selection approach to make inferences about the number of photoreceptor classes in their eyes. I infer that both species have four spectral classes of photoreceptors that contribute to their ERGs, suggesting unconventional vision guides the described behavior. I extended the same modeling approach to other organisms, finding that the model inferences align with the empirically determined number of photoreceptor classes for this diverse set of organisms. This dissertation expands the conceptual framework of color vision research, indicating unconventional vision is more widespread than previously considered, and explains why some organisms have more spectral classes than would be expected from their behavioral repertoire.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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The ecology of relatedness: aspects and effects

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Why are human societies so psychologically diverse? The discipline of behavioral ecology is rich in both theory and data on how environments shape non-human animal behavior. However, behavioral ecological thinking

Why are human societies so psychologically diverse? The discipline of behavioral ecology is rich in both theory and data on how environments shape non-human animal behavior. However, behavioral ecological thinking has not received much attention in the study of human cultural psychological variation. I propose that ecological relatedness—how genetically related individuals are to others in their proximate environment—is one aspect of the environment that shapes human psychology. I present three studies here that examine the influence of ecological relatedness on multiple aspects of psychology. In the first study, I find that higher levels of ecological relatedness at the nation level is associated with a greater willingness to put oneself at risk for others, greater localized trust, and a stronger sense of belonging to one’s community. In the second and third studies, using experimental manipulations of perceived ecological relatedness, I examine the effects of ecological relatedness on helping behavior across situations, monetary sharing on a dictator game, interpersonal judgments, and alloparenting behaviors. I find that individuals led to perceive higher ecological relatedness became more sensitive to need in potential helping situations. The implications of ecological relatedness for thinking about psychological variation across groups are discussed.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Iridescent, distasteful, and blue: effectiveness of short-wavelength, iridescent coloration as a warning signal in the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor)

Description

Warning coloration deters predators from attacking prey that are defended, usually by being distasteful, toxic, or otherwise costly for predators to pursue and consume. Predators may have an innate response

Warning coloration deters predators from attacking prey that are defended, usually by being distasteful, toxic, or otherwise costly for predators to pursue and consume. Predators may have an innate response to warning colors or learn to associate them with a defense through trial and error. In general, predators should select for warning signals that are easy to learn and recognize. Previous research demonstrates long-wavelength colors (e.g. red and yellow) are effective because they are readily detected and learned. However, a number of defended animals display short-wavelength coloration (e.g. blue and violet), such as the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). The role of blue coloration in warning signals had not previously been explicitly tested. My research showed in laboratory experiments that curve-billed thrashers (Toxostoma curvirostre) and Gambel's quail (Callipepla gambelii) can learn and recognize the iridescent blue of B. philenor as a warning signal and that it is innately avoided. I tested the attack rates of these colors in the field and blue was not as effective as orange. I concluded that blue colors may function as warning signals, but the effectiveness is likely dependent on the context and predator.

Blue colors are often iridescent in nature and the effect of iridescence on warning signal function was unknown. I reared B. philenor larvae under varied food deprivation treatments. Iridescent colors did not have more variation than pigment-based colors under these conditions; variation which could affect predator learning. Learning could also be affected by changes in appearance, as iridescent colors change in both hue and brightness as the angle of illuminating light and viewer change in relation to the color surface. Iridescent colors can also be much brighter than pigment-based colors and iridescent animals can statically display different hues. I tested these potential effects on warning signal learning by domestic chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) and found that variation due to the directionality of iridescence and a brighter warning signal did not influence learning. However, blue-violet was learned more readily than blue-green. These experiments revealed that the directionality of iridescent coloration does not likely negatively affect its potential effectiveness as a warning signal.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Chameleon color change communicates conquest and capitulation

Description

Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes

Sexual and social signals have long been thought to play an important role in speciation and diversity; hence, investigations of intraspecific communication may lead to important insights regarding key processes of evolution. Though we have learned much about the control, function, and evolution of animal communication by studying several very common signal types, investigating rare classes of signals may provide new information about how and why animals communicate. My dissertation research focused on rapid physiological color change, a rare signal-type used by relatively few taxa. To answer longstanding questions about this rare class of signals, I employed novel methods to measure rapid color change signals of male veiled chameleons Chamaeleo calyptratus in real-time as seen by the intended conspecific receivers, as well as the associated behaviors of signalers and receivers. In the context of agonistic male-male interactions, I found that the brightness achieved by individual males and the speed of color change were the best predictors of aggression and fighting ability. Conversely, I found that rapid skin darkening serves as a signal of submission for male chameleons, reducing aggression from winners when displayed by losers. Additionally, my research revealed that the timing of maximum skin brightness and speed of brightening were the best predictors of maximum bite force and circulating testosterone levels, respectively. Together, these results indicated that different aspects of color change can communicate information about contest strategy, physiology, and performance ability. Lastly, when I experimentally manipulated the external appearance of chameleons, I found that "dishonestly" signaling individuals (i.e. those whose behavior did not match their manipulated color) received higher aggression from unpainted opponents. The increased aggression received by dishonest signalers suggests that social costs play an important role in maintaining the honesty of rapid color change signals in veiled chameleons. Though the color change abilities of chameleons have interested humans since the time of Aristotle, little was previously known about the signal content of such changes. Documenting the behavioral contexts and information content of these signals has provided an important first step in understanding the current function, underlying control mechanisms, and evolutionary origins of this rare signal type.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Developing behavioral indices of population viability: a case study of California sea lions in the Gulf of California, Mexico

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Despite years of effort, the field of conservation biology still struggles to incorporate theories of animal behavior. I introduce in Chapter I the issues surrounding the disconnect between behavioral ecology

Despite years of effort, the field of conservation biology still struggles to incorporate theories of animal behavior. I introduce in Chapter I the issues surrounding the disconnect between behavioral ecology and conservation biology, and propose the use of behavioral knowledge in population viability analysis. In Chapter II, I develop a framework that uses three strategies for incorporating behavior into demographic models, outline the costs of each strategy through decision analysis, and build on previous work in behavioral ecology and demography. First, relevant behavioral mechanisms should be included in demographic models used for conservation decision-making. Second, I propose rapid behavioral assessment as a useful tool to approximate demographic rates through regression of demographic phenomena on observations of related behaviors. This technique provides behaviorally estimated parameters that may be applied to population viability analysis for use in management. Finally, behavioral indices can be used as warning signs of population decline. The proposed framework combines each strategy through decision analysis to provide quantitative rules that determine when incorporating aspects of conservation behavior may be beneficial to management. Chapter III applies this technique to estimate birthrate in a colony of California sea lions in the Gulf of California, Mexico. This study includes a cost analysis of the behavioral and traditional parameter estimation techniques. I then provide in Chapter IV practical recommendations for applying this framework to management programs along with general guidelines for the development of rapid behavioral assessment.

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Date Created
  • 2012