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Behavioural Ecology

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss behavioural ecology, the scientific study of animal behaviour in light of Darwin's theory of evolution.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Behavioural Ecology, the scientific study of animal behaviour.

What factors influence where and what an animal chooses to eat? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Behavioural ecologists approach questions like these using Darwin's theory of natural selection, along with ideas drawn from game theory and the economics of consumer choice.

Scientists had always been interested in why animals behave as they do, but before behavioural ecology this area of zoology never got much beyond a collection of interesting anecdotes. Behavioural ecology gave researchers techniques for constructing rigorous mathematical models of how animals act under different circumstances, and for predicting how they will react if circumstances change. Behavioural ecology emerged as a branch of zoology in the second half of the 20th century and proponents say it revolutionized our understanding of animals in their environments.


Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London

Rebecca Kilner, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Cambridge

John Krebs, Principal of Jesus College at the University of Oxford

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 11 Dec 2014 21:30


Steve Jones at University College London

Rebecca Kilner at the University of Cambridge

John Krebs at the University of Oxford

Behavioural Ecology - Wikipedia



Tim Birkhead, Bird Sense: What It’s Like to Be a Bird (Bloomsbury, 2013)

Nicholas Davies, John Krebs, Stuart West, An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford Paperbacks, 1989)

Jared Diamond, The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: How Our Animal Heritage Affects the Way We Live (Vintage, 1992)

Olivia Judson, Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex (Vintage, 2003)

Marek Kohn, A Reason for Everything: Natural Selection and the English Imagination (Faber & Faber, 2005)

Aubrey Manning and Marian Stamp Dawkins (ed.), An Introduction to Animal Behaviour (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Niko Tinbergen, Curious Naturalists (University of Massachusetts Press, 1984)

John Thompson, Relentless Evolution (University of Chicago Press, 2013)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Producer Luke Mulhall
Interviewed Guest Steve Jones
Interviewed Guest Rebecca Kilner
Interviewed Guest John Krebs


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