Many animals will invent new behaviour patterns, adjust established behaviours to a novel context, or respond to stresses in an appropriate and novel manner. This is the first ever book on the topic of 'animal innovation'. Bringing together leading scientific authorities on animal and human innovation, this book will put the topic of animal innovation on the map, and heighten awareness of this developing field.
Evolutionary developmental biology (“evo-devo”) may provide insights and new methods for studies of cognition and cultural evolution. For example, I propose using cultural selection and individual learning to examine constraints on cultural evolution. Modularity, the idea that traits vary independently, can facilitate evolution (increase “evolvability”), because evolution can act on one trait without disrupting another. I explore links between cognitive modularity, evolutionary modularity, and cultural evolvability. (Published Online November 9 2006).
Numerous studies have documented individual differences in exploratory tendencies and other phenomena related to search, and these differences have been linked to fitness. Here, I discuss the origins of these differences, focusing on how experience shapes animal search and exploration. The origin of individual differences will also depend upon the alternatives to exploration that are available. Given that search and exploration frequently carry significant costs, we might expect individuals to utilize cues indicating the potential net payoffs of exploration versus the (...) exploitation of known acts. Informative cues could arise from both recent and early-life experiences, from both the social and physical environment. Open questions are the extent to which an individual's exploratory tendencies are fixed throughout life versus being flexibly adjusted according to prevailing conditions and the actions of other individuals, and the extent to which individual differences in exploration extend across domains and are independent of other processes. (shrink)
Evolutionary questions require specialized approaches, part of which are comparisons between close relatives. However, to understand the origins of human tool behavior, comparisons with solely chimpanzees are insufficient, lacking the power to identify derived traits. Moreover, tool use is unlikely a unitary phenomenon. Large-scale comparative analyses provide an alternative and suggest that tool use co-evolves with a suite of cognitive traits.
Behavioral innovations induced by the social or physical environment are likely to be of great functional and evolutionary importance, and thus warrant serious attention. Innovation provides a process by which animals can adjust to changed environments. Despite this apparent adaptive advantage, it is not known whether innovative propensities are adaptive specializations. Furthermore, the varied psychological processes underlying innovation remain poorly understood.
Sociality may not be a defining feature of social learning. Complex social systems have been predicted to favour the evolution of social learning, but the evidence for this relationship is weak. In birds, only one study supports the hypothesis that social learning is an adaptive specialisation to social living. In nonhuman primates, social group size and social learning frequency are not correlated. Though cetaceans may prove an exception, they provide a useful group with which to test these ideas.