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Integr Comp Biol. 2016 Nov;56(5):853-855.

Neuroecology: Neural Mechanisms of Sensory and Motor Processes that Mediate Ecologically Relevant Behaviors: An Introduction to the Symposium.

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*Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA;
Neuroscience Program and Department of Integrative Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


What is Neuroecology? Animal behavior mediates many critical ecological processes that, in turn, have implications for the evolution of organismal interactions. Because the peripheral and central nervous systems ultimately control behavior, research in neuroecology seeks to link the neural basis of behavior with behavioral control of ecological interactions, and to determine how specific processes (e.g., environmental and genetic constraints, ecological and evolutionary forces) operating to alter nervous system function might constrain or facilitate adaptive behavior. Our goal for this symposium was to promote a general framework for neuroecology by exploring fundamental questions germane to this new area of research, and to develop a "toolbox" of techniques and approaches for addressing those questions. In the following series of papers, we provide a starting point for future work on neuroecology, including evolutionary context, the role of plasticity in shaping nervous system function and behavior, and an exploration of various sensorimotor systems that control ecological interactions. By promoting an integration of observational and experimental approaches at different levels of organization, we can reveal much about how the neural bases of behaviors influence interactions that occur under ecologically relevant contexts that would otherwise be impossible from isolated physiological, behavioral, or ecological components.

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