Animal Behaviour On An Urbanized Planet

Organizer: James Chadwick Johnson

As more than ½ of the human population now lives in rapidly expanding urban centres, urbanization is a particularly important example of rapid environmental change. The impact that urbanization has on the biota and ecosystems around us has unknown consequences for the long-term sustainability of habitats (both human and non-human). We propose a symposium, well-balanced across taxa, that addresses several emerging themes in the behavioural ecology of urban organisms. In particular, we aim to highlight theory and data that address the intuitive idea that behavioural plasticity in these rapidly changing environments is key for the success of urban organisms. Second, we ask participants to emphasize the benefits of coupling mechanistic and functional approaches in studies of urban behaviour. Third, we address a relatively new theme in urban ecology by examining the implications of spatial/environmental heterogeneity within and across cities. Indeed, this latter issue has the potential to help us understand (predict) how urbanization can affect behaviour (and potentially biodiversity) differently across the landscape. We bring a vibrant and diverse group of eager symposium participants (e.g. researchers from varied career stages and histories of ABS participation) and a pair of seasoned urban behavior researchers as organizers that will shepherd the discussion to yield the highest impact. It is our great hope that you will see fit to fund this timely symposium.

Cross-taxa Perspectives On Behavior And Developmental Origins

Organizers: Stacy Rosenbaum, University of Notre Dame and Elizabeth Archie, University of Notre Dame

The developmental origins of later life outcomes, including health, fitness, and life history variables, are still murky in most biological systems. Although experimental work has shed some light on the physiological and (epi)genetic mechanisms regulating the connection between early (or even pre-conception) experiences and later outcomes, behavior is a relatively underexplored frontier in the developmental origins literature. This session will curate papers that integrate developmental origins questions and behavioral data in a range of animal species. Understanding how behavior mediates relationships between early experience and later outcomes is crucial for testing, shaping, and refining foundational theoretical frameworks to understand early life effects. For example, behavior contains important information about how and why organisms make the life history tradeoffs they do, helping us distinguish amongst competing models of the connection between experiences and outcomes that may be removed by months, years, or even decades.

A complete understanding of developmental origins requires both proximate and ultimate levels of explanation. Research on captive populations, which provides critical experimental control and the ability to test causality, needs to be paired with work on wild populations, where organisms are subject to the context and selective pressures that shaped their evolutionary history. Therefore, this session will contain a mix of participants who study wild and captive populations. It will include papers that focus on animals whose life histories span the slow-to-fast continuum, to highlight where (and where not) lessons learned from one end of the spectrum can be applied to the other.

Proximate Mechanisms Of Complex Sociality

Organizer: Emily H. DuVal

Complex social behaviors are an essential part of the lives of many animals, and are shaped by needs for reproduction, foraging, and survival. These social behaviors range from aggressive interactions to cooperation to parental care, and vary considerably both within and among species. The integration of molecular genetics, neurobiology, and physiology with animal behavior have garnered new insights into the proximate causes and consequences of complex sociality. Understanding the proximate mechanisms of social behaviors will help us better understand the adaptive function of these behaviors and ultimately the evolution of sociality. We propose this symposium to showcase recent advances in our understanding of the proximate regulation and mediation of animal sociality from the perspective of a variety of fields of study, and to highlight areas of developing research. This symposium will provide an overview of the wealth of proximate mechanisms that contribute to the regulation and modulation of complex social behaviors. It will include research by at least six speakers who represent a variety of distinct yet integrative biological disciplines.

Behavioral Plasticity

Organizers: Andrew Iwaniuk, Ned Dochtermann and Jennifer Hellmann

Behaviour is often highlighted as an important means by which animals respond to rapid environmental changes. This is because behaviour largely influences how individuals interact with their environment and can be readily modified within an individual’s lifetime. Growing evidence suggest that the ability of animals to adjust their behaviour to changing conditions can be crucial in determining individual fitness as well as population persistence. However, why animals exhibit substantial differences in behavioural responses is less clear because the mechanisms underlying behavioural adjustments are diverse. These include individual and social learning, as well as innovation, which can be defined as the use of a typical behaviour to solve a novel problem or a novel behaviour to solve an old problem. All of these processes can lead to the expression of behavioural plasticity, and co-vary with brain and brain region sizes across species. However, recent discussions have emphasized that individual learning, social learning and innovation are distinct processes, with potentially diverse impacts on survival and reproduction, and with different evolutionary trajectories. Here we highlight advances in our understanding of the evolution of innovativeness, learning and the brain, stemming from a diversity of approaches including large-scale comparative studies, artificial selection experiments, and the study of intraspecific variation in natural populations. In doing so, we aim to stimulate future research into the causes of variation in behavioural plasticity and its consequences for brain evolution.

Presidential Symposium: Constraints On Animal Mating Displays: LinkingPproduction Mechanisms To Signal Function

Organizer: Jeff Podos, ABS Immediate Past-President

A long-standing challenge in behavioral biology has been to explain the evolution of elaborate and conspicuous mating displays. Emerging research programs on this topic are plumbing, in new ways, the physiological and biomechanical bases of display performance, and testing if and how variation therein might influence display function. This work aims to de-emphasize generic measures of signaler quality and condition, and instead favor analyses of specific organismal traits that link directly to display attributes including vigor, skill, and consistency. Speakers in this symposium will discuss their own research on these topics, and consider how research on display mechanisms inform our broader understanding of animal communication and sexual selection.


Sue Bertram
Mark Briffa
Marcela Fernandez-Peters
Franz Goller
Rebecca Koch
Lisa Mangiamele
Jeff Podos
Barney Schlinger

Allee Symposium for Best Student Paper

Organizer: Esteban Fernandez-Juricic, ABS Second President-Elect

This symposium features outstanding graduate student research, with an award for the best paper, and is a highlight of ABS meetings. The session honors Dr. Warder Clyde Allee (1885–1955), an animal behavior researcher who was very influential in the development and direction of animal behavior research in the 20th century. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1951 and ranks among the leading twentieth century ecologists, especially for his work in behavioral and animal ecology. In the 2019 ABS Allee Session, students will present their research to ABS members and talk judges.