Behavioral responses to a changing world

June 15, 2012, Monash University
Male beetles are mating with beer bottles. Credit: University of Toronto Mississauga

( -- Male beetles in Western Australia are mating with beer bottles in response to environmental change caused by human activity. A new book examines why, and the impacts on biodiversity.

Oxford University Press today announced the launch of Behavioral Responses to a Changing World: Mechanisms and Consequences by Dr. Bob Wong, of Monash University, and Ulrika Candolin from The University of Helsinki, Finland.

Drawing on international experts from across the globe, it is the first book of its kind devoted to understanding animal behavioral responses to environmental change. emphasises the vital links between environmental change, behavior and which have been rarely examined in the context of one another.

Co-editor Dr. Bob Wong, Senior Lecturer at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences and an expert in behavioural and evolutionary ecology, said how animals respond to changed conditions was a growing area of research interest.

“Due to human activities, almost all creatures live in environments that have been altered to some degree. The ability to behave accordingly under new conditions is crucial for survival,” Dr. Wong said.

“Environmental change caused by human activity is considered the greatest single threat to global biodiversity. Scientists are only now beginning to appreciate the important ecological and evolutionary implications of altered behaviours due to environmental change."

Dr. Wong said the initial response of many animals to human-induced is often behavioral, which in turn affects species’ interactions, population viability, evolution, and ultimately, biodiversity.

“Some of these behaviors can be beneficial and buy more time for populations and species to genetically adapt to altered conditions. Some species might even thrive in urban environments. But behaviors can also be maladaptive,” Dr. Wong said.

“Male beetles, for example, are mating with beer bottles because they resemble female and female fish in Mexico, living in polluted streams, are mating with male fish of the wrong species.”

The comprehensive text discusses impacts on both the mechanisms underlying behavioral processes, as well as the longer-term ecological and evolutionary consequences. Topics as diverse as endocrine disruption, learning, reproduction, migration, species interactions and evolutionary rescue are canvassed.

Dr. Wong will officially present ‘Behavioural Responses to a Changing World’ at a post-congress symposia of the 14th International Behavioral Ecology Congress on 18 August in Sweden.

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1 / 5 (1) Jun 18, 2012
Re: Male beetles, for example, are mating with beer bottles because they resemble female beetles and female fish in Mexico, living in polluted streams, are mating with male fish of the wrong species.

Pheromones control reproduction in species from microbes to man. They are species-specific and have epigenetic effects on intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression. Here, researchers seemingly ignore this established biological fact and propose that an insect is mating with a beer bottle because it resembles a female beetle. That's a fascinating misrepresentation of biologically based cause and effect. Mating in fish is also controlled by pheromones, not visual input. But once you've started down the path of ignorance that leads to the misrepresentations of how adaptive evolution occurs, you can make virtually anything but olfactory/pheromonal input responsible for the development of sexual behavior in any species. Isn't endocrine disruption the problem?

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