Behavioral drive versus behavioral inertia in evolution: a null model approach

Am Nat. 2003 Mar;161(3):357-66. doi: 10.1086/346135.


Some biologists embrace the classical view that changes in behavior inevitably initiate or drive evolutionary changes in other traits, yet others note that behavior sometimes inhibits evolutionary changes. Here we develop a null model that quantifies the impact of regulatory behaviors (specifically, thermoregulatory behaviors) on body temperature and on performance of ectotherms. We apply the model to data on a lizard (Anolis cristatellus) and show that thermoregulatory behaviors likely inhibit selection for evolutionary shifts in thermal physiology with altitude. Because behavioral adjustments are commonly used by ectotherms to regulate physiological performance, regulatory behaviors should generally constrain rather than drive evolution, a phenomenon we call the "Bogert effect." We briefly review a few other examples that contradict the classical view of behavior as the inevitable driving force in evolution. Overall, our analysis and brief review challenge the classical view that behavior is invariably the driving force in evolution, and instead our work supports the alternative view that behavior has diverse--and sometimes conflicting--effects on the directions and rates at which other traits evolve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Puerto Rico