This topic covers a range of evolutionary approaches that are used to understand animal behaviour, including social organization and reproductive strategies. The broad approaches cover ultimate and proximate causes of behaviour, the evolution of feeding behaviour, the evolution of reproductive and mating strategies, parental care, and the evolution of social behaviour. Examples are drawn from invertebrates, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals. Implications of these approaches for understanding human behaviour are also explored. There is also a group-based research project that builds on material presented in the lectures. This can comprise a critical review of the scientific literature dealing with an aspect of animal behaviour relevant to current social debates such as climate change or habitat loss, or it can be a research project on the behavioural ecology of fauna on the Flinders campus or fauna at the Adelaide or Monarto zoos. A variety of critical review and research project topics will be supplied, but students may also design their own in consultation with one of the lecturers in the topic.
After completing this topic students should have an advanced understanding of how evolution can shape the kinds of behaviours that we see in the animal world, and how this can sometime provide insight into human behaviour. Students will also gain familiarity with some modelling approached to behaviour including some basic Games Theory. Finally, students will have experience in designing, executing and reporting a research project in behavioural ecology, or alternatively in critically reviewing and reporting on the scientific literature dealing with behavioural ecology and its relevance to current social issues.