Abstract # 2321 Event # 122:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 03:30 PM-04:30 PM: (North Main Hall) Featured Speaker


The Study of 'Beautiful-haired' Monkeys: Twenty-five Years of Research at the Adaptation:Mechanism Interface

J. A. French
Callitrichid Research Center, Department of Psychology and Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182, USA
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     For decades, students of behavior found themselves asking questions about behavior either at the level of mechanism (proximate cause and ontogeny) or at the level of adaptation (function and phylogeny). During the course of my scientific career, there has been a growing appreciation that questions at one level of analysis are more appropriately framed and maximally informative when those questions are advised by theory, hypothesis, and/or data at the other level of analysis. This is what I refer to as the “adaptation:mechanism interface.” Using examples from studies on callitrichid primates, I will highlight the utility of this approach. Among the behavioral systems we have fruitfully explored using this approach are pair-bond formation and fidelity, reproductive suppression and skew, paternal and maternal care, and intra- and intergroup aggression. What has been particularly rewarding is the interaction between levels of analysis and field and laboratory work, where knowledge of mechanism from work on captive animals has advised questions on population biology in the field, and where data from behavioral ecology in wild populations has focused attention on potential mechanisms that can be studied in captive animals. I gratefully acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and the many students and collaborators who have contributed to my ability to tell this story.