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Why Organisms’ Behaviors Do Change Due to an Environmental Change

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Plasticity is defined as an organism that has high speed adaptability when it comes to figuring out how to change for a certain situation/habitat. Throughout time there has been a vague distinction between exactly what plasticity means vs. and repeatability when it comes to something such as behavior. Carter et al. goes on to discuss how our civilization knows little to none about exactly why organism’s behaviors do change due to something such as an environmental change.

The species of Namibian rock agama, agama planiceps, is a point of interest for the researchers as they claim it is the perfect species to study a behavioral vs. environmental scenario with. It was noted from a previous documentation that there was a change of behavior among these male agamas due to a personality difference of shy vs. being more “bold” that resulted in things such as their predator rate or even their territory size. Carter et al. decides to focus on 4 main questions to research: if there will be a population change in behavior between the seasons, if there are consistent behavioral changes in the agama throughout the allotted period of time, if there was a difference amongst the group for behaviors due to the seasonal changes, and lastly to prove if there was a relationship between plasticity and personalities. The methods of this research included a designated location at Hobatere Campsite. All and all, there was 33 males used for this experiment and it lasted precisely from October 15th to December 9th of 2010. In order for them to tell turtles a part, they did not use tracking devices; rather, used the physicality of their appearance as indicators to tell who exactly was who. During this period of time they distinguished between two seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season essentially started at the beginning of the experiment where there was no rain at all, and the wet season began approx. November 15th until the end of the study due to the first rain fall. Every agama had one observer that was very conscious of how far it stood away and for how long to record data for the most efficient results. Behaviors that these observers recorded included things such as basking, moving, thigmothermy, and lying in the shade. Observers also recorded another behavioral event called signaling which is essentially the bopping of an agamas head.

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Another component of the critical questions being answered is to address how risky they behaved by measuring their FID (Flight Initiation Distance) from the observer. The smaller the numerical number of the FID, the more “bold” the agamas were perceived as. This is because the FID is measured by how far away the agama fled once the observer approached it head on. For visual data representations, Carter et al. used a variety of linear mixed effect models for all four focus questions from this experiment. As for the results of the experiment, one of the 33 male turtles did go missing, but his data was used from the time he remained present. It was also determined that the behaviors being tested did in fact change due to season (at first). It was actually the rainy season for instance that both the urge to signal and conspicuous behavior increased, however boldness did decrease during the rainy season. As it turns out, the researchers concluded based off another model that this happened to be something called a response to habituation, and not necessary a change because of the dry vs. wet season. This research also led to the conclusion that season nor environment created a variety in behavioral responses.

Lastly, as all good experiments do, this research has opened up further questions such as moving forward can we analyze these behaviors that do show a relationship with personality.


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