The Flexible Phenotype: A Body-Centred Integration of Ecology, Physiology, and Behaviour

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9780199233724: The Flexible Phenotype: A Body-Centred Integration of Ecology, Physiology, and Behaviour

The Flexible Phenotype attempts a true synthesis of animal physiology, behavior, 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, behavior, 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 program 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, behavior, 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.

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About the Author:


Theunis Piersma is Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Groningen and a senior research scientist with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) on Texel. Together with his internationally oriented research teams at Groningen and Texel he investigates how the distribution and numbers of shorebirds and meadowbirds are a function of climate, food, predators, pathogens, as well as the historic-genetic background of the respective species and populations. He has co-authored several books and published about 300 refereed research papers. In 2004 he received the Three-annual Prize for Nature Conservation from the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund, the Ornithologenpreis of the German Ornithologists' Society and the first Luc Hoffmann Medal for Excellence in wetland science and conservation of Wetlands International. He was elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in 2009.

Jan A. van Gils studied biology at the University of Groningen. His PhD thesis (2004) on Red Knots focused on foraging decisions during the non-breeding season and how optimal choices co-vary throughout the year with a migrant's flexible body. In his current position as a research scientist at NIOZ, Jan studies the distributional ecology of avian migrants at the individual level, and how their foraging impacts community functioning. He often takes a theoretical approach, building and testing models based on measurements collected in the field, but also under controlled conditions in the laboratory. Although his studies are curiosity-driven, they find their applications in societal issues such as habitat destruction, global warming and bird flu. Recently awarded a prestigious VIDI-grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), his publication record meanwhile includes about 35 peer-reviewed papers.

Review:


"This text is a must for anybody who has remained curious about the ways animals, including humans, deal with their environment. It's scientifically sound and at the same time it's a gripping story." - Dr. Hans Hoppeler, Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern, Switzerland and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Experimental Biology


"Written with zest, a sense of fun, and a deep love of nature, The Flexible Phenotype offers biologists a real synthesis of ecology, physiology and behavior, based on in-depth empirical research. The adventures of the subject of many of these studies, the red-knot, a migrant shorebird, captivate the imagination, show us how physiology and morphology express ecology, and make this book not only an important and truly integrated study in biology, but also a pleasure to read." - Professor Eva Jablonka, Cohn Institute, Tel-Aviv University, Israel


"Even amongst mammals and birds, animals are diverse. Biologists have long sought the evolutionary pressures that have led to particular body designs and lifestyles. I believe that to do so requires an approach that considers the interaction of body design and behaviour in an ecological context. Too often these components are considered in relative isolation. In contrast, this book is wonderfully broad and holistic, integrating across levels. Even though the book is written in an accessible style that will entertain anyone who is interested in nature, it is serious science." - Professor John McNamara, University of Bristol, UK


"Drawing on experience in field and laboratory research, and integrating modern ideas about acclimatization and the optimizing of individual behavior, physiology, and morphology, the authors have produced an accessible, highly readable, and stimulating synthesis of the flexible phenotype. Using examples drawn from their own work on migrating shorebirds, as well as myriad other organisms, the authors show how individuals respond to change by altering their structure and function through a variety of behavioral and physiological mechanisms. Long-standing traditions of research in physiological, behavioral, and evolutionary ecology are brought completely up-to-date in this timely treatment of organisms in their changeable worlds." - Professor Robert E. Ricklefs, University of Missouri - St. Louis, USA


"In their book Piersma and van Gils provide a timely summary of the reawakening in our knowledge of phenotypic flexibility in the context of comparative biology. They convincingly remind us of how it is a key component of the whole process by which an organism interacts with its environment. Written in an engaging style which draws the reader into the salient issues of the day with everyday examples this book is not only a landmark in the field, but an entertaining read as well. It will therefore appeal to readers across the spectrum, from interested amateur naturalists, via students of physiological and behavioural ecology to established professional researchers." - Professor John Speakman, University of Aberdeen, UK


"This text is a must for anybody who has remained curious about the ways animals, including humans, deal with their environment. It's scientifically sound and at the same time it's a gripping story." - Dr. Hans Hoppeler, Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern, Switzerland and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Experimental Biology


"Written with zest, a sense of fun, and a deep love of nature, The Flexible Phenotype offers biologists a real synthesis of ecology, physiology and behavior, based on in-depth empirical research. The adventures of the subject of many of these studies, the red-knot, a migrant shorebird, captivate the imagination, show us how physiology and morphology express ecology, and make this book not only an important and truly integrated study in biology, but also a pleasure to read." - Professor Eva Jablonka, Cohn Institute, Tel-Aviv University, Israel


"Even amongst mammals and birds, animals are diverse. Biologists have long sought the evolutionary pressures that have led to particular body designs and lifestyles. I believe that to do so requires an approach that considers the interaction of body design and behaviour in an ecological context. Too often these components are considered in relative isolation. In contrast, this book is wonderfully broad and holistic, integrating across levels. Even though the book is written in an accessible style that will entertain anyone who is interested in nature, it is serious science." - Professor John McNamara, University of Bristol, UK


"Drawing on experience in field and laboratory research, and integrating modern ideas about acclimatization and the optimizing of individual behavior, physiology, and morphology, the authors have produced an accessible, highly readable, and stimulating synthesis of the flexible phenotype. Using examples drawn from their own work on migrating shorebirds, as well as myriad other organisms, the authors show how individuals respond to change by altering their structure and function through a variety of behavioral and physiological mechanisms. Long-standing traditions of research in physiological, behavioral, and evolutionary ecology are brought completely up-to-date in this timely treatment of organisms in their changeable worlds." - Professor Robert E. Ricklefs, University of Missouri - St. Louis, USA


"In their book Piersma and van Gils provide a timely summary of the reawakening in our knowledge of phenotypic flexibility in the context of comparative biology. They convincingly remind us of how it is a key component of the whole process by which an organism interacts with its environment. Written in an engaging style which draws the reader into the salient issues of the day with everyday examples this book is not only a landmark in the field, but an entertaining read as well. It will therefore appeal to readers across the spectrum, from interested amateur naturalists, via students of physiological and behavioural ecology to established professional researchers." - Professor John Speakman, University of Aberdeen, UK


"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


"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, Department of Biology and Curriculum in Neurobiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


"Overall, I liked this book very much. It is full of interesting information, presented in an accessible form, and there are 33 pages of references for further detail. It will be very useful for undergraduates, but also thought-provoking for researchers. And even if you do not agree with everything the authors say, you will certainly enjoy reading and thinking about it." -- Pat Monaghan, Institute of Biodiversity and Animal Health, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, The Auk


Overall, the book does an excellent job of covering a large range of interesting topics in an approachable way, especially for nonphysiologists." -- Dustin R. Rubenstein, Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York


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