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Fichtel C.,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit | Kappeler P.M.,University of Gottingen
International Journal of Primatology | Year: 2011

The comprehension and usage of primate alarm calls appear to be influenced by social learning. Thus, alarm calls provide flexible behavioral mechanisms that may allow animals to develop appropriate responses to locally present predators. To study this potential flexibility, we compared the usage and function of 3 alarm calls common to 2 closely related sifaka species (Propithecus verreauxi and P. coquereli), in each of 2 different populations with different sets of predators. Playback studies revealed that both species in both of their respective populations emitted roaring barks in response to raptors, and playbacks of this call elicited a specific anti-raptor response (look up and climb down). However, in Verreaux's sifakas, tchi-faks elicited anti-terrestrial predator responses (look down, climb up) in the population with a higher potential predation threat by terrestrial predators, whereas tchi-faks in the other population were associated with nonspecific flight responses. In both populations of Coquerel's sifakas, tchi-fak playbacks elicited anti-terrestrial predator responses. More strikingly, Verreaux's sifakas exhibited anti-terrestrial predator responses after playbacks of growls in the population with a higher threat of predation by terrestrial predators, whereas Coquerel's sifakas in the raptor-dominated habitat seemed to associate growls with a threat by raptors; the 2 other populations of each species associated a mild disturbance with growls. We interpret this differential comprehension and usage of alarm calls as the result of social learning processes that caused changes in signal content in response to changes in the set of predators to which these populations have been exposed since they last shared a common ancestor. © 2010 The Author(s). Source

Port M.,University of Cambridge | Kappeler P.M.,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit | Kappeler P.M.,University of Gottingen | Johnstone R.A.,University of Cambridge
American Naturalist | Year: 2011

The evolution of group living has attracted considerable attention from behavioral ecologists working on a wide range of study species. However, theoretical research in this field has been largely focused on cooperative breeders. We extend this line of work to species that lack alloparental care (hereafter termed ''noncooperative species'') but that may benefit from grouping by jointly defending a common territory. We adopt a demographically explicit approach in which the rates of births and deaths as well as the dispersal decisions of individuals in the population determine the turnover rates of territories and the competition for breeding vacancies thus arising. Our results reveal that some of the factors thought to affect the evolution of cooperative breeding also affect the evolution of group living in noncooperative species. Specifically, high fecundity and low mortality of resident individuals both increase the degree of habitat saturation and make joining an established group more profitable for nonresidents (floaters). Moreover, if floaters can forcefully take over territories, the degree of habitat saturation also affects the chance that residents become targets of takeovers. In this situation, communal defense of territories becomes an important benefit that further promotes the evolution of group living. © 2011 by The University of Chicago. Source

Kappeler P.M.,University of Gottingen | Kappeler P.M.,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit | Barrett L.,University of Lethbridge | Barrett L.,Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystems Research Unit | And 2 more authors.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2013

This paper introduces a Theme Issue presenting the latest developments in research on the interplay between flexibility and constraint in social behaviour, using comparative datasets, long-term field studies and experimental data from both field and laboratory studies of mammals. We first explain our focus on mammals and outline the main components of their social systems, focusing on variation within- and among-species in numerous aspects of social organization, mating system and social structure. We then review the current state of primarily ultimate explanations of this diversity in social behaviour. We approach the question of how and why the balance between behavioural flexibility and continuity is achieved by discussing the genetic, developmental, ecological and social constraints on hypothetically unlimited behavioural flexibility. We introduce the other contributions to this Theme Issue against this background and conclude that constraints are often crucial to the evolution and expression of behavioural flexibility. In exploring these issues, the enduring relevance of Tinbergen's seminal paper 'On aims and methods in ethology', with its advocacy of an integrative, four-pronged approach to studying behaviour becomes apparent: an exceptionally fitting tribute on the 50th anniversary of its publication. © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Source

Schneider T.C.,University of Gottingen | Kappeler P.M.,University of Gottingen | Kappeler P.M.,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit
Biological Reviews | Year: 2014

The diversity of extant carnivores provides valuable opportunities for comparative research to illuminate general patterns of mammalian social evolution. Recent field studies on mongooses (Herpestidae), in particular, have generated detailed behavioural and demographic data allowing tests of assumptions and predictions of theories of social evolution. The first studies of the social systems of their closest relatives, the Malagasy Eupleridae, also have been initiated. The literature on mongooses was last reviewed over 25years ago. In this review, we summarise the current state of knowledge on the social organisation, mating systems and social structure (especially competition and cooperation) of the two mongoose families. Our second aim is to evaluate the contributions of these studies to a better understanding of mammalian social evolution in general. Based on published reports or anecdotal information, we can classify 16 of the 34 species of Herpestidae as solitary and nine as group-living; there are insufficient data available for the remainder. There is a strong phylogenetic signal of sociality with permanent complex groups being limited to the genera Crossarchus, Helogale, Liberiictis, Mungos, and Suricata. Our review also indicates that studies of solitary and social mongooses have been conducted within different theoretical frameworks: whereas solitary species and transitions to gregariousness have been mainly investigated in relation to ecological determinants, the study of social patterns of highly social mongooses has instead been based on reproductive skew theory. In some group-living species, group size and composition were found to determine reproductive competition and cooperative breeding through group augmentation. Infanticide risk and inbreeding avoidance connect social organisation and social structure with reproductive tactics and life histories, but their specific impact on mongoose sociality is still difficult to evaluate. However, the level of reproductive skew in social mongooses is not only determined by the costs and benefits of suppressing each other's breeding attempts, but also influenced by resource abundance. Thus, dispersal, as a consequence of eviction, is also linked to the costs of co-breeding in the context of food competition. By linking these facts, we show that the socio-ecological model and reproductive skew theory share some determinants of social patterns. We also conclude that due to their long bio-geographical isolation and divergent selection pressures, future studies of the social systems of the Eupleridae will be of great value for the elucidation of general patterns in carnivore social evolution. © 2013 Cambridge Philosophical Society. Source

Huchard E.,University of Cambridge | Pechouskova E.,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit
International Journal of Primatology | Year: 2014

Since the serendipitous discovery of the effect of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on mate choice in laboratory mice nearly 40 yr ago, there has been sustained interest in the role that MHC genes may play in vertebrate sexual behavior. However, the challenges posed by MHC genotyping have long hampered progress in this area. We briefly introduce the documented links between MHC and behavior, before presenting an overview of the genotyping methods that were available before the introduction of new sequencing technologies. We then clarify why next-generation sequencing represents a major breakthrough in MHC genotyping by reviewing the recent successes -and pitfalls- of pioneer studies applying these techniques, before envisioning their revolutionary implications for future MHC studies in evolutionary ecology and primatology. We hope that our practical guidance to the design of MHC-based projects will promote and facilitate the integration of a MHC component into the research agendas of primatologists. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York. Source

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