Coming of age in the evolutionary behavioral sciences: A review of Nicholas B. Davies, John R. Krebs, and Stuart A. West, An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 4th Edition
Evolutionary Psychology 11(2): 347-349 H. Clark Barrett Download PDF (free)
Excerpt: “Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that we would be able to study sexual conflict at the molecular level… or that microbes would become wonderful experimental models for studying the evolution of social behaviour…”
My comment: We incorporated the study of sexual conflict at the molecular level when we began to detail a model for the adaptive evolution of sexual behavior in our 1996 review article: From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior. We wrote: “…if specific genes or genomic regions are found to be primary determinants of sexual orientations, upstream and downstream genes are likely also to play crucial roles. And these multigene interrelationships will have profound impact upon phenotypes and judgments derived therefrom.” (We included a section on molecular epigenetics and elaborated on this fact: “Yet another kind of epigenetic imprinting occurs in species as diverse as yeast, Drosophila, mice, and humans.”)
The next sentence from the same paragraph quoted above addresses the fact that microbes are “wonderful experimental models for studying the evolution of social behaviour…” We wrote “Parenthetically it is interesting to note even the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a gene-based equivalent of sexual orientation (i.e., a-factor and alpha-factor physiologies). These differences arise from different epigenetic modifications of an otherwise identical MAT locus (Runge and Zakian, 1996; Wu and Haber, 1995).”
The development of this model incorporated what is neuroscientifically known and resulted in 2012 publication of Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. The concluding sentence is: “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.”
The answer to the questions about who would have thought about sexual conflict at the molecular level, or that microbes could be used to model social behavior is clear. My coauthors and me in 1996, and in 2001. It was me again in a 2007 book chapter, and in a 2012 review. It’s me again in Nutrient–dependent / Pheromone–controlled Adaptive Evolution: A Model (published June 14, 2013).
Now, the questions are: 1) Who thinks that evolutionary theory did not long ago move from story-tellling to accurate representations of established facts? 2) How much longer will it be until evolutionary theorists grasp the fact that adaptive evolution is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled in species from microbes to man?
At least a decade ago, it should have been clear that “Behavioural ecology” incorporates what I began to detail about ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction in my first presentation to a scientific forum in 1992, and then with co-author Robert Francoeur in a 1995 book (paperback 2002) before publishing in the research journals. Who can we thank for muddying up that clarity with their ridiculous opinions and commentaries? Who still knows nothing about the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization required to link sensory input to behavior in species from microbes to man? When will everyone understand the importance of Behavioural Ecology?