, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 571-583
Date: 26 Nov 2009

Behavioural plasticity: an interaction between evolution and experience

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Abstract

Animals adjust their behaviour in response to complex environmental conditions. This form of plasticity requires the formation of association between information and an appropriate behavioural response. Such a connection is the result of a complex interaction between evolutionary pre-programmed cue-response behaviour (innate behavioural response) and cumulated lifetime experience (learning). The evolution of learning and innate behavioural responses is likely to depend on their respective fitness costs and benefits. However, as natural selection will indirectly affect each form through global behavioural plasticity, it is critical to understand how each form interacts with the other. The inclusion of innate behavioural plasticity and learning in behaviour is likely to result in more than the mere sum of each plastic form. In this review we investigate the costs and benefits of learning and innate behavioural responses and the effect of one on the other in their evolution. We highlight the need for more explicit study of the interaction between innate behavioural response and learning in natural systems for a better understanding of behavioural plasticity.