Vol. 62, No. 2 | May 2017

ABS Meeting Plenary Sessions and Symposia

Keynote & Plenaries

Rebecca Kilner
Cambridge University 

How behavior changes evolution: experiments with burying beetles

Summary: Behavioural ecologists analyse animal behaviour to understand how it is adaptive, and therefore why it persists. In our lab, the focus is slightly different. We want to know how adaptive traits, like animal behaviour, influence the subsequent course of evolution. We address this question by using experimental evolution and we focus in particular on a social trait, namely parental care. Our model species is the burying beetle, a remarkable insect that breeds upon the body of a small dead vertebrate. It shows elaborate parental care, which involves preparing the carcass to make an edible nest for its offspring and provisioning larvae after hatching. I will describe experiments that manipulate the provision of parental care and measure the way in which traits then evolve and adapt, in both parents and offspring. The general conclusion is that there are diverse ways in which behaviour can change evolution.

Elizabeth Tibbetts
University of Michigan

Animal signals influence social behavior, physiology, and cognition: Lessons from wasp faces

Summary: The effects of animal signals extend beyond social interactions to shape the way animals look, think, act, and evolve. In the first section of the talk, I will draw examples from multiple taxa to illustrate that communication is a key factor shaping phenotypic and genetic diversity in social animals. The goal is to develop a useful framework for future behavioral and evolutionary research on animal signals. I will show how signals that convey different kinds of information differ in terms of the type of selection acting on signalers, patterns of phenotypic variation, developmental mechanisms, and evolutionary consequences. In the second section of the talk, I will experimentally examine the factors that prevent low-quality individuals from cheating by signaling that they are strong. Experiments in paper wasps show that dishonest individuals are aggressively punished, and this punishment has lasting effects on the physiology of the dishonest signaler and those they interact with. Therefore, interactions between behavioral and physiological costs of dishonesty could play an important role in maintaining honest communication over evolutionary time.

Anita Aisenberg
Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable

Journey to an upside-down world: a transgressive South American spider as a model for sexual selection studies

Summary: This talk will be focused on the outstanding Allocosa brasiliensis, a sand-burrowing spider that inhabits the coasts of South America. Conversely to what is expected in spiders, males are larger than females, while females are wanderers that look for mating partners and initiate courtship. Both sexes are choosy when it is time for mating: females prefer males with long burrows and males prefer virgin females with good body condition. Furthermore, males can attack and cannibalize rejected females. This Neotropical species gives us the opportunity to study the factors governing their atypical behaviors, while discussing the causes shaping sex roles in spiders. In this talk we will get to know this spider-exception through a journey to experimental and field-work performed on this species, ending with perspectives for future studies.          



William Searcy
University of Miami
Bird song and the problem of signal reliability




Molly Morris
Ohio University
The evolution of alternative reproductive tactics


James Dale
Massey University

Plumage colour in males and females

Summary: Research on animal coloration has led to amazing insights into the nature of natural selection, sexual selection, sensory ecology and the evolutionary maintenance of biological diversity. However quantifying coloration can be challenging because it is a complex, multi-dimensional trait that is often perceived differently by the animals under investigation and the investigators themselves. In this talk I will first review methods to quantify “colour elaboration”. Using birds as a model system, I will then argue that quantifying how “male-like” or “female-like” a colour is provides an intuitive and effective means for interspecific comparison of colour diversity. Finally, I will apply this method to the ~6000 species of perching birds (Order: Passeriformes) to help resolve some of the key evolutionary predictors of colour elaboration in both sexes.         



The Future of Zoo Research: 50 Years of Zoo Behavior

Organizers: Susan Margulis and Nancy Scott

In 1967, a symposium was held at the annual meeting of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums on the Use of Zoos and Aquariums in Teaching Animal Behavior. The value of zoos as research venues remains somewhat overlooked; lamentable, given the rich resource that zoos present for both basic and applied studies. Fifty years later, we reflect on the current trends in zoo research by bringing together experts who will speak to the nature of zoo behavioral studies, the kinds of questions that can be addressed, application to scientific management and husbandry, and future directions in zoo behavioral research. The growing emphasis on animal welfare science makes this symposium particularly timely, as zoos remain at the forefront of applied animal welfare studies. Behavioral research in zoos spans a range of sub-disciplines within the broad field of animal behavior, and these will be represented in the symposium. We aim to highlight the extent to which zoo behavioral research has grown beyond development of short-term projects for college classes and emergent problem-solving to hypothesis-driven research with substantial theoretical underpinnings and statistical validity as well as real-world application. The list of potential speakers bridges the zoo and academic worlds and emphasizes the contributions that have been, and can be, made to basic biological knowledge, animal welfare, and conservation.

Bonnie Baird, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Erika Bauer, Smithsonian Institution
Eduardo Fernandez, University of Washington
Susan Margulis, Canisius College
Georgia Mason, University of Guelph
Gabriela Mastromonaco, Toronto Zoo
Kathy Carlstead, Smithsonian
Jill Mellen, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Beth Stark Posta, The Toledo Zoo
Nancy Scott, Dallas Zoo
Jason Watters, San Francisco Zoological Society


Animal Cognition: Mechanisms, Ecology and Evolution

Organizers: Reuven Dukas and John Ratcliffe

Cognitive ​ ​ ecology focuses on the ecology and evolution of cognition, defined as the neuronal processes concerned with the acquisition, retention, and use of information. The past few decades have seen an increasing number of researchers within the discipline of cognitive ecology. The first two “Cognitive Ecology” symposia, which were held at the 1994 and 2007 Animal Behavior Society meetings, summarized some of the research in the growing discipline and resulted in the publications of two edited volumes (Dukas 1998, Dukas and Ratcliffe 2009). The proposed 2017 symposium will allow us to gather some of the experts in the area for formal overviews and brainstorming. We will focus on speakers who can integrate ecology and evolution with mechanisms of animal cognition. While we will include some established researchers, the emphasis will be on newcomers to the discipline. We will ask all prospective speakers to focus on fresh ideas and novel research methods, and to devote significant time to discussing future research directions for the next decade.

Lucy Aplin, University of Oxford
Reuven Dukas, McMaster University
Aimee Dunlap, University of Missouri
Alexander Kotrschal, Stockholm University
Julie Morand-Ferron, University of Ottawa
Steve Phelps, University of Texas
Vladimir Pravosoduv, University of Nevada
John Ratcliffe, University of Toronto
Mike Ryan, University of Texas
Emilie Snell-Rood, University of Minnesota


Behavioural Biodiversity: What can under-studied lineages reveal about behavioural ecology?

Organizers: Maydianne Andrade, Andrew Mason and Malcolm Rosenthal

Taxonomic skew in studies of animal behaviour, and other fields, is severe. In a recent analysis of publication patterns over the history of the journal Animal Behaviour, the magnitude of the issue is clear. Papers on chordates make up 70% of all publications published between 2000 and 2015 despite accounting for fewer than 7% of animal species. Within chordates, birds and mammals comprise over 50% of publications, and some subject areas show even more severe skew. We argue that a broader and more representative approach is essential if research in this discipline is aimed at the discovery of general principles about behaviour and evolution. In this symposium, we tackle the issue of taxonomic skew with a focus on lineages that are understudied relative to their representation in nature, and that can provide important tests of existing paradigms, or that are likely to shed new light on our understanding. We end with a discussion centred on two questions: (1) is taxonomic skew negatively affecting our field? and (2) should we consider approaches that could support broadening of taxonomic representation in studies of animal behaviour?

Malcolm Rosenthal, University of California Berkeley
Shelley Adamo, Dalhousie University
Michael Kasumovic, University of New South Wales
Sarah Bengston, University of Rochester
Darryl Gwynne, University of Toronto Mississauga
Chrissie Painting, University of Aukland
Mark Laidre, Dartmouth
Emilie Snell-Rood, University of Minnesota
Locke Rowe, University of Toronto


Presidential Symposium: Predicting Behavior

Organizer: Emília P. Martins

Predictions are a powerful tool for understanding animal behavior, and the need for accurate predictions has become increasingly pressing with the growing impact of anthropogenic forces such as urbanization, pollution and climate change. However, animal behavior is inherently complex, such that making specific predictions about future behavior can seem a daunting task. To predict future behavior, we need to understand the underlying mechanisms, environmental factors, developmental forces, and evolutionary contexts that constrain or promote particular types of changes. We also need to know how these aspects interact with each other, and to obtain quantitative estimates of their relative importance. As an important consequence, the process of prediction often leads to the identification of simple rules that explain complex phenomena as well as powerful manipulations that can effectively confirm or refute hypotheses.

For this symposium, we bring together experts who work on a wide range of animals from a diversity of perspectives and challenge them to make specific predictions about behavioral change in response to climate shifts, urbanization or other forces. Along the way, we asked speakers to review what is known about plasticity and change, and to recommend future research that would facilitate the prediction process for other researchers.

Rebecca J. Safran, University of Colorado
Karen L. Carleton, University of Maryland, College Park
Michael J. Sheehan, Cornell University
Barbara Taborsky, Universität Bern, Switzerland
Monserrat Suárez-Rodriguez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Ximena E. Bernal, Purdue University
Mikus Abolins-Abols, Indiana University
Diana K. Hews, Indiana State University


Allee Symposium for Best Student Paper

Organizer: John P. Swaddle

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 2017 ABS Allee Session, students will present their research to ABS members and talk judges.


ABS Newsletter

Starting June 17th, please send general correspondence concerning the Society to the new ABS Secretary, Patty Brennan ([email protected]). Before June 17th, 2017 please send general correspondence to Sue Bertram, [email protected]. Deadlines for materials to be included in the Newsletter are the 15th of the month preceding each issue. The next deadline is 15 July, 2017. Articles submitted by members of the Society and judged by the Secretary to be appropriate are occasionally published in the ABS newsletter. The publication of such material does not imply ABS endorsement of the opinions expressed by contributors.

Animal Behaviour

Animal Behaviour, manuscripts and editorial matters: Authors should submit manuscripts online to Elsevier’s Editorial System (http://ees.elsevier.com/anbeh/). For enquiries relating to submissions prior to acceptance, contact the Journal Manager ([email protected]). For enquiries relating to submissions after acceptance, visit Elsevier at http://www.elsevier.com/journals. For other general correspondence, contact Kris Bruner, Managing Editor, Animal Behaviour, Indiana University, 407 N. Park Ave., Bloomington, IN 47408, USA. E-mail: [email protected]. Phone: 812-345-0497

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