Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology


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Evolutionary ecology of behavioural stability in natural bird populations

Evolutionary biology of birds and relatives, combining field, museum and genomics approaches to understand the basis of avian diversity, evolution and behavior. Rates, directions and consequences of evolutionary diversification, as well as the marks of evolutionary history on community structure; interactions between various tiny consumers and their hosts, such as beetles and plants or mosquitoes, pathogens and vertebrates. Maternal-fetal conflict in human pregnancy to the evolution of plant life cycles. Particular interest in genetic conflicts within individual organisms, as exemplified by genomic imprinting.

Identifying and characterizing the molecular changes responsible for traits that affect fitness of organisms in the wild; using wild mice to study the genetic basis of morphological and behavior adaptation. Speciation in plants, predominantly focused on reinforcement, the process in which reduced hybrid fitness generates selection for the evolution of reproductive isolation between emerging species.


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Principles and mechanisms used by neural circuits to generate complex, learned behaviors. Pierce Lab. One of the major challenges in cultural evolution is to understand why and how various forms of social learning are used in human populations, both now and in the past. The authors demonstrate the applicability and utility of generative inference approaches to the field of cultural evolution. The framework advocated uses observed population-level frequency data directly to establish the likely presence or absence of particular hypothesized learning strategies.

New work from Dr Anne Kandler and colleagues sheds light on the cultural evolutionary dynamics of cryptocurrencies. Kandler and colleagues consider the history of cryptocurrencies introduced between April and May They reveal that, while new cryptocurrencies appear and disappear continuously and their market capitalization is increasing super- exponentially, several statistical properties of the market have been stable for years.

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These include the number of active cryptocurrencies, market share distribution and the turnover of cryptocurrencies. Adopting an ecological perspective, they show that the so-called neutral model of evolution is able to reproduce a number of key empirical observations. Neutral evolution assumes that there are no selective forces distinguishing different variants in a population.

Many studies have sought to assess whether neutrality can provide a good description of different episodes of cultural change.

Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution | MEME

One approach has been to test whether neutral predictions are consistent with observed progeny distributions, recording the number of variants that have produced a given number of new instances within a specified time interval: a classic example is the distribution of baby names.

New work from HBEC scientist Dr Anne Kandler and colleague Dr James O'Dwyer shows that these distributions consist of two phases: a power-law phase followed by an exponential cut-off for variants with very large numbers of progeny. They show that analyses based on only the most popular variants, as is often the case in studies of cultural evolution, can provide misleading evidence. While neutrality provides a plausible description of progeny distributions of abundant variants, rare variants deviate from neutrality.

Despite the global headlines emphasizing division and conflict, humans actually have a long history of forming friendships across group boundaries. But which criteria do they use for picking friends from a different group? In collaboration with three populations of horticulturalists in Bolivia, researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of California Santa Barbara found that we use very similar criteria when choosing friends from among in-group and out-group strangers — individual cooperative qualities are most important in both cases.

Only when it comes to dividing limited resources, qualities associated with a group can affect partner preference. Full press release. Access the paper. Dr Anne Kandler has published a new analysis of the potential for inferring learning mechanisms from population-level data. Patterns of cultural change depend upon individual-level strategies. Inferring these strategies from data is complicated by the paucity of individual-level data. Researchers commonly attempt to infer strategies instead of available population-level data. Kandler and her co-authors show that such data are useful in limited, but valuable, ways.

These results represent a substantial advance and refine thinking about both the limits and potential of using aggregate data to infer individual processes. Jeremy Koster and Richard McElreath have published a new statistical framework for analyzing behavioral data , applying the technique to human data from Koster's field site. The method accepts the multinomial nature of behavior data and also accounts for repeated observations. It is also capable of revealing individual-level trade-offs across behaviors, allowing for models that reveal the extent to which individuals who regularly engage in one behavior also exhibit relatively more or less of another behavior.

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These models can potentially be applied to a broad class of statistical analyses by behavioral ecologists, focusing on other polytomous response variables, such as behavior, habitat choice, or emotional states. Dr Bunce addresses processes of ethnic boundary maintenance and change, using ethnographic data from his fieldwork in lowland Amazonia, in combination with Bayesian models of normative behavior.

Code and data. Conformist learning can be adaptive, but it may be maladaptive when environments change. Using a field experiment, the researchers document the social learning strategies that allow a wild population to adapt to environmental change. A mix of conformity and innovation is found in the analysis and demonstrated in theory to be broadly adaptive.


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Using field experiments, they document the spread of behavioral traditions and analyze the learning strategies that may account for the spread. The analysis suggests that payoff-biased social learning strongly influences behavior.

Data and code. This seminar presents progress on a large meta-analysis of foraging records from 39 human samples. Home Contact Imprint Sitemap Webmail.

Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology

Please see the Projects and Fieldwork links on the left for much more information. This includes analyzing genetic, neural and psychological mechanisms underlying behavior, as well as their evolutionary consequences in terms of speciation and diversification. Research is conducted both in laboratory and field populations. Within OEB, we focus primarily on animal systems other than humans, including the neurobiology of learning and memory, the behavioral ecology of species interactions, mating behavior and its role in species divergence, and perceptions involved in social interactions.

Evolutionary biology of birds and relatives, combining field, museum and genomics approaches to understand the basis of avian diversity, evolution and behavior. Rates, directions and consequences of evolutionary diversification, as well as the marks of evolutionary history on community structure; interactions between various tiny consumers and their hosts, such as beetles and plants or mosquitoes, pathogens and vertebrates.


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  • Maternal-fetal conflict in human pregnancy to the evolution of plant life cycles. Particular interest in genetic conflicts within individual organisms, as exemplified by genomic imprinting. Identifying and characterizing the molecular changes responsible for traits that affect fitness of organisms in the wild; using wild mice to study the genetic basis of morphological and behavior adaptation.

    Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology
    Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology
    Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology
    Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology
    Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology

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