A Brief Glimpse at the Long Evolutionary History of Play

Play has long been considered an enigmatic behavior that is hard to define, but having many putative functions difficult to confirm. This situation is changing quite rapidly in recent years. This introduction to a special issue on play provides some general background, historical and contemporary, on the recognition and phylogenetic aspects of play, along with […]

Animal personality due to social niche specialisation

The existence of ‘animal personality’, i.e. consistent individual differences in behaviour across time and contexts, is an evolutionary puzzle that has recently generated considerable research interest. Although social factors are generally considered to be important, it is as yet unclear how they might select for personality. Drawing from ecological niche theory, we explore how social […]

Review of Bird Coloration: Vol. 1, Mechanisms and Measurement; Vol. 2, Function and Evolution

Book review

Sexual selection is not the origin of long necks in giraffes

The evolutionary origin of the long neck of giraffes is enigmatic. One theory (the ‘sexual selection’ theory) is that their shape evolved because males use their necks and heads to achieve sexual dominance. Support for this theory would be that males invest more in neck and head growth than do females. We have investigated this […]

Heart disease is common in humans and chimpanzees, but is caused by different pathological processes

Heart disease is common in both humans and chimpanzees, manifesting typically as sudden cardiac arrest or progressive heart failure. Surprisingly, although chimpanzees are our closest evolutionary relatives, the major cause of heart disease is different in the two species. Histopathology data of affected chimpanzee hearts from two primate centers, and analysis of literature indicate that […]

Individuals and populations: the role of long-term, individual-based studies of animals in ecology and evolutionary biology

Many important questions in ecology and evolutionary biology can only be answered with data that extend over several decades and answering a substantial proportion of questions requires records of the life histories of recognisable individuals. We identify six advantages that long-term, individual based studies afford in ecology and evolution: (i) analysis of age structure; (ii) […]

Why Snakes Have Forked Tongues

The serpent’s forked tongue has intrigued humankind for millennia, but its function has remained obscure. Theory, anatomy, neural circuitry, function, and behavior now support a hypothesis of the forked tongue as a chemosensory edge detector used to follow pheromone trails of prey and conspecifics. The ability to sample simultaneously two points along a chemical gradient […]

General Intelligence as a Domain-Specific Adaptation

General intelligence (g) poses a problem for evolutionary psychology’s modular view of the human brain. The author advances a new evolutionary psychological theory of the evolution of general intelligence and argues that general intelligence evolved as a domain-specific adaptation for the originally limited sphere of evolutionary novelty in the ancestral environment. It has accidentally become […]

Ecological dominance, social competition, and coalitionary arms races: Why humans evolved extraordinary intelligence

Human cognitive abilities are extraordinary. Our large brains are significantly modified from those of our closest relatives, suggesting a history of intense natural selection. The conditions favoring the evolution of human cognitive adaptations, however, remain an enigma. Hypotheses based on traditional ecological demands, such as hunting or climatic variability, have not provided satisfying explanations. Recent […]

Limits to the salience of ultraviolet: Lessons from colour vision in bees and birds

Ultraviolet is an important component of the photic environment. It is used by a wide variety of animals and plants in mutualistic communication, especially in insect and flower inter-relationships. Ultraviolet reflections and sensitivity are also becoming well considered in the relationships between vertebrates and their environment. The relative importance of ultraviolet vis à vis other […]