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11: Behavioral Ecology

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    Learning Objectives
    • Explain Tinbergen’s levels of analysis and be able to formulate questions that would be addressed at each level of analysis.
    • Use concepts from optimal foraging models to explain foraging behavior, and compare and contrast solitary versus group foraging.
    • Explain the costs and benefits of migration, and describe how these movements are studied by ecologists.
    • Describe the variety forms and functions of animal communication.
    • Explain direct, indirect, and inclusive fitness, and use Hamilton’s rule to assess when kin selection could be acting in a population.


    Behavioral ecology is the study of the evolutionary basis for animal behavior due to ecological pressures. Behavioral ecology seeks to address questions associated with the proximate causes, ontogeny, survival value, and phylogeny of a behavior. The field of behavioral ecology includes a variety of disciplines, including the study of how organisms find food, how they move about the environment, and how they communicate with each other. This field is also interested in studying the evolution of social behaviors and social systems.

    11: Behavioral Ecology is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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