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Emerging field of neuroecology is showcased in December issue of the Biological Bulletin
Date:12/17/2007

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA A plant laces its leaves with a noxious chemical, forcing a hungry herbivore to choose between starving, eating a potentially toxic item, or moving on. A newt secretes a potent neurotoxin to defend against predators, unwittingly setting off a cascade of effects in its freshwater pond, where other inhabitants co-opt the toxin for different uses. A squid escapes a predator by clouding the water with ink but is this a visual defense, or are there chemical implications for the ecosystem as well?

These and other real-world scenarios are explored in a virtual symposium on the new field of neuroecology in the December issue of The Biological Bulletin. This just-emerging field bridges the gap between studying the neural basis of behavior (neuroethology) and evaluating the consequences of that behavior at the ecological levels of populations and communities.

Neuroecology recognizes a continuum that runs from physiology to individual behavior to populations and communities, says Richard K. Zimmer of the University of California, Los Angeles, who organized the virtual symposium with Charles D. Derby of Georgia State University. Rarely do scientific investigations link in these different scales of biology. And this is a gap that is especially critical to cross. There is a treasure trove of important discoveries to be made about how populations are regulated, in this case by behavior and the physiology that determines behavior.

This Biological Bulletin virtual symposium includes six research papers by leading scientists in neuroecology, as well as an historical overview by Zimmer and Derby of the strands that combine in this interdisciplinary field. Topics include:

  • How neurotoxins emitted for chemical defense function as keystone molecules that have vast ecological consequences at multiple trophic levels, by Richard K. Zimmer and Ryan P. Ferrer of the University of California, Los Angeles

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Contact: Carol Schachinger
cschachi@mbl.edu
508-289-7149
Marine Biological Laboratory  
Source:Eurekalert

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