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Behaviorology divided: Shall we continue?

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image of Behaviour

The biological study of behavior was shaped by the divorce between ethology and behavioral ecology twenty years ago. Whereas the heirs of ethology promote a phenomenological study of behaviors, behavioral ecologists focus on their fitness consequences. I argue that both schools share the same blind spot about the link between evolutionary past and the making up of the individual because of their common acceptance of the dichotomy between ultimate and proximate causation. By maintaining a pan-selectionist view of evolution in the study of behavior, the dichotomy hampers exploring how epigenetic processes affect adaptive trade-offs. Giving up the dichotomy would give impetus to research programs that investigate how behavioral traits associate in clusters through development and evolution. It would further a comprehensive view of behavioral phenotypes, making the reunification of behavioral biology an attainable goal.

Affiliations: 1: Département Ecologie, Physiologie & Ethologie, IPHC, Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique, Université Louis Pasteur, 23 rue Becquerel, 67087 Strasbourg, France


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