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The Flexible Phenotype attempts a true synthesis of animal physiology, behaviour, and ecology by developing an empirical argument that describes the intimate connections between animal phenotype and environment. It starts with a synthesis of the principles guiding current research in ecophysiology, behaviour, and ecology, illustrating each aspect with the detailed results of empirical work on as wide a range of organisms as possible. The integrated story of the flexible phenotype is weaved throughout the book on the basis of the authors' long-term research programme on migrant shorebirds and their invertebrate prey.
These birds travel vast distances from one environment to another, and the changing nature of their bodies reflects the varied selection pressures experienced in these very different locations. In essence, the authors argue for the existence of direct, measurable, links between phenotype and ecology. Their book outlines a more encompassing approach to evolutionary ecology, based on first principles in physiology, behaviour, and ecology. It aspires to encourage a further integration of ecology and physiology, as well as fostering a collaborative research agenda between ecologists and physiologists.
1. Introduction PART I - BASICS OF ORGANISMAL DESIGN 2. Maintaining the Balance of Heat, Water, Nutrients, and Energy 3. Symmorphosis: Principle and Limitations of Economic Design; PART II - ADDING ENVIRONMENT 4. Metabolic Ceilings: the Ecology of Physiological Restraint 5. Phenotypic Plasticity: Matching Phenotypes to Environmental Demands PART III - ADDING BEHAVIOUR 6. Optimal Behaviour: Currencies and Constraints 7. Optimal Foraging: the Dynamic Choice Between Diets, Feeding Patches, and Gut Sizes PART IV - TOWARDS A FULLY INTEGRATED VIEW 8. Beyond the Physical Balance: Disease and Predation 9. Population Consequences: Conservation and Management of Flexible Phenotypes 10. Evolution in Five Dimensions: Phenotypes First! References Index
This book is not simply a list of examples of how integration has helped us understand some behavioral problem; rather, it is more of a guide for using integration to investigate behavior as a vehicle for phenotypic flexibility. The integration that facilitates this process is difficult to practice. For the work of Piersma and van Gils, it requires expertise in physiology, behavior, and ecology, and, as these authors point out, attempting to be a jack of all of these trades runs the risk of mastering none of them. With their new book, Piersma and van Gils clearly demonstrate mastery not only at the three components of their integration, but also at the very process of integration, which is long overdue to be recognized as a trade in and of itself. Keith W. Sockman, PLOS Biology The text is written engagingly, where each of the ten richly illustrated and concise chapters adds more depth to the integrated story...The book is written for graduate level students and researchers in the fields of physiology, behavioural ecology, and evolutionary biology. However, due to its attractive writing and lay-out this book will also appeal to a more general audience.
- Casper Kraan, Basic and Applied Ecology