Introduction to Behavioural Ecology

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 3

Typically offered in

Autumn semester

Course description

1. Natural selection, ecology and behaviour. Definitions and framework. Connections between genes and behaviour. Selfish individuals or group advantage?

2. Testing hypotheses in behavioural ecology. The comparative approach. Examples: birds, ungulates. Adaptations: cause, effect and confounding variables. Experimental studies. Optimality models in behavioural ecology.

3. Economic decisions ont he individual level. Examples: bees and starlings. Sampling, information and starvation risk. Environmental variability, body reserve and food storing. Variability in searching and handling time. Nutrient constraints.

4. Predators versus prey: Evolutionary arms races.Warning coloration, conspicuousness and crypsis. Brood parasites and their hosts.

5. Competing for resources. Exploitation and resource defence. Ideal free and despotic distributions. Territoriality (intra- and interspecific).

6. Costs and benefits of being in a group. Hypotheses and tests.

7. Fighting and assessment. Theory and examples of war of attrition. ESS. Badges of status, examples.

8. Sexual conflicts and sexual selection. Scarce resource and (operative) sex ratio. Male conflicts, mate choice and sperm competition. Sexual signals, information content and functions.

9. Parental care and Mating systems. Role of proximate constraints, ecology and dispersal.

10. Alternative breeding strategies. Sex change.

11. On selfishness and altruism. Kin selection. Mutualism, manipulation and reciprocity. Altruism int he social insects.Co-operation and helping in birds, mammals and fisch.

13. Life histories. Reproduction and survival. Cost of reproduction.

14. Human social behaviuor in ecological environments

15. Conclusion: causal and functional explanations.

  • Krebs J. R. and Davies N. B. 1993: An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, Third Edition, Blackwell Science

  • Krebs JR. és Davies NB. 2001 Behavioural Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach.4th Edition Blackwell Science