TERRESTRIAL WILDLIFE ECO-ETHOLOGY
Basic knowledge in Zoology and Ecology, basic theory on data analysis and representation. Knowledge of English language is recommended.
Aims and learning outcomes
The course is an introduction to the study of animal behaviour in natural environments, with particular reference to terrestrial vertebrates (birds and mammals) belonging to the European fauna, as well as species of interest from the conservation and management standpoint.
In detail, the course will intriduce to the application of the experimental approach in an evolutionaty context to the study of animal behaviour. The principal paradigms will be discussed concerning resource selection, cost/benefit analysis, optimal foraging, competition for resources, predation and anti-predatory evolutionary strategies, social structures, mating systems ,inter- and intra-specific communication.
The course will also focus on practical examples and case studies, examining in depth some of the theoretical topics discussed.
A series of field activities is also included, aimed at the practical applications of the concepts presented during the course.
Intermediate oral examination. Questions will be based on the syllabus and the final score (in marks out of 30) will be based on comprehension (25%), capacity to apply theoretical concepts to real cases (25%), autonomy of judgement (15%), communication skills (15%) and learning abilities (20%).
Final examination consisting in a short report related to the field activities
Final evaluation will be based on the same criteria described for the intermediate oral examination.
Contents and syllabus
Introduction to the stydy of behaviour in the field
Presentation of the course syllabus, principles of behavioural ecology, origin and history of the discipline, objectives and methodologies.
The experimental approach
Experimental design, hypothesis testing, experimental field design, fundamentals of data analysis.
Interpretive models of behaviour
The cost/benefits paradigm, cost/benefits balance, Game Theory and its application to the study of behaviour.
Behaviour and Evolutionary Stable Strategies
Definition of Evolutionary Stable Strategy, stable strategies, alternate strategies and opportunistic behaviour, predatory and anti-predatory strategies.
Mating systems and reproductive strategies
Sexual selection, sexual competition, parental investment, parental care and “family conflicts” (compatition betwen parents, sibling rivalry, parent-offspring conflicts).
Group living: evolution and advantages, “selfishness” and “altruism”, mutualistic behaviour, cooperation and kin selection.
Communicaiton and signalling
Types of communicaiton, signals and cues, “dishonest” signals, behaviour and communication.
Case studies and in-depth examples
Behavioural ecology of the Alpine Hare
Anti-predatory strategies in Amphibians and Reptiles
Prey selection in fish-eating birds
Group behavior and sociality in bats
Mating systems and competition for resources in tree squirrels
Sociality in insects
Kleptoparasitism in insects
Materials and texts
N.B. Davies, J.R. Krebs, S.A. West (2012). An introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 4th edition. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-1416-5 (paperback) 978-1-4443-3949-9 (hardback)
Alternative text (in Italian): J.R. Krebs, N.B. Davies (2002). Ecologia e comportamento animale. Nuova edizione riveduta e ampliata. Bollati Boringhieri. ISBN 978-88-339-5682-4.
Slides and additional self-study materials (e.g. videos) available on the e-learning platform.