Interactions between individuals and their environment take place on many levels such as perception, communication and decision-making. Knowledge on the variety of cognitive and learning abilities used by individuals to feed or mate is essential to comprehend the adaptive value of behavioural plasticity. In general, such plasticity complicates the predictability of the evolutionary fate of the traits in question.
We study perception of cues (communication and decision-making) involved in interactions between individuals and their environment, in large brained species like apes. Knowledge on the variety of cognitive abilities used by individuals to feed or mate is essential to comprehend the adaptive value of behavioural plasticity. Read more on the personal web pages of Karline Janmaat and Serge Wich.
Sexual communication between (potential) mates is the first step in mating and thus offspring production. Covarying plasticity in both mate choice signals and responses may lead to assortative mating, which may be the start of sympatric speciation. To understand whether, when and how variation in sexual attraction may be involved in speciation, it is essential to experimentally determine the genetic basis of this variation, and the extent of phenotypic plasticity in sexual signals and responses. Read more on the personal web page of Astrid Groot.
Within their lifetime, animals need to cope with variation in their environment. For example, prey will have to deal with variation in predation risk and predators are confronted with variation in the volatile cues associated with their prey. Animals can cope with this variation by learning the association between cues associated with food or danger and positive or negative experience. We study such learning behaviour using herbivorous plant pests (see personal web page Martijn Egas) and their natural enemies (see personal web page Arne Janssen).
Faculty of Science
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics