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Card-index course

Behavioural Ecology

Ecologie comportementale

Responsible Faculty: School of Biology (FBM-BIO)

Teacher(s): Alexandre Roulin

Validity: 2005 -> 2005

No timetable defined.


Spring semester
14 hours per semester

Teaching language(s): French
Public: On written demand
Credits: 1.00


The aim of the field 'Behavioural Ecology' is to understand the adaptive function of any behaviour that evolved under natural selection. The aim of this course is to introduce various topics belonging to Behavioural Ecology including how animals allocate resources in parental care, the evolutionary basis of parent-offspring conflict, mating systems and how individuals resolve trade-offs between fitness components. This course provides the necessary tools to study any animal behaviour in an evolutionary context. For example, we will be able to understand why nestling birds, pups or larvae in some insect species vocalise conspicuously when their parents arrive with food items despite this offspring behaviour tends to attract predators. We will discuss the scientific approach in behavioural ecology which consists in generating hypotheses and testable predictions. We will use examples from the literature, and discussions between the professor and students will take place to examine relevant issues in behavioural ecology. These discussion will demonstrate that the experimental approach is a powerful intellectual way of thinking in Behavioural Ecology.


This theoretical course of 14h compares the different branches of the study of animal behaviour (e.g. ethology vs. behavioural ecology). In this course, we will define Behavioural Ecology, discuss (1) the fact that behaviour can be genetically determined or learned, (2) the importance of kin selection in the evolution of complex social behaviour, (3) the different methods used in behavioural ecology at the level of the individual, population and species, (4) the importance of measuring the costs and benefits of any behaviour, (5) the notion of comportemental strategies, (6) the factors that promote the evolution of group living and cooperation, (7) sexual selection as an evolutionary force having promoted the evolution of mate choice for ornamented partners, (8) the role of sexual conflicts in the evolution of mating systems, and (9) the evolution of communication.

A textbook will be delivered to each student.


Un polycopié (en français) est distributé à chaque étudiant en début de cours.

J. R. Krebs & N. B. Davies: An introduction to Behavioural Ecology. Blackwell University Press. 1993, Londres.

E. Danchin, L.-A. Giraldeau, F. Cézilly: Ecologie Comportementale. Sciences SUP. 2005, Paris.

Journeaux scientifiques figurant à la bibliothèque du Biophore ou sur internet (http://perunil.unil.ch/perunil/periodiques/).

Programme requirements


Additional information


Canton de Vaud
Swiss University
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