Our unit investigates the behavioural ecology of Vertebrates in natural and experimental environments through the study of social structures, mating tactics, communication systems, biological rhythms, space utilisation and population dynamics. Ultimately, we aim at characterising the ontogeny and plasticity of behaviours, their adaptive values for the individuals, populations and species, which intimately govern the evolution and biological diversity of animals. Our studies rely on state-of-the-art technology for the measurement of behaviour (Ethovision XT – video tracking, Observer XT, sonography, telemetry) and benefit largely from numerous experimental facilities (over 100 aquaria, mesocosms, artificial stream). The Unit includes two laboratories: the Laboratory of Fish and Amphibian Ethology and the Laboratory of Fish Demography and Hydroecology, as well as a research group in tropical ecology and primatology.
Our studies of fish behaviour focus essentially on the influence of the physical, chemical, biological and social factors on the behavioural repertoires and patterns, cognition abilities, reproductive strategies, habitat selection and the interactions between predator and prey [P. Poncin – M. Ovidio – M. Denoël – J. Delcourt]. In amphibians, we focus on the ecology, behaviour and evolution of species exhibiting complex versus single life cycles (metamorphosis vs paedomorphosis) and ultimately on the causes of their decline, notably because of alien species introductions and climate change [M. Denoël]. In both fish and amphibians, we develop ethometric tools, leading to the development of behavioural biomarkers. Studies of birds consist essentially in the analysis of individual behavioural profiles, and in the survey of wild endangered populations and species [M. Loneux]. In primates, we investigate eco-ethology-related questions in the wild, in particular habitat use mechanisms (feeding ecology, bird nest predation, spatial/movement ecology), behavioural ecology, socio-ecology, population dynamics, and management / conservation issues in human-disturbed habitats [F. Brotcorne]. The analysis of habitat and diet ressource use by primates has led us to study seed dispersal dynamics and tree regeneration in tropical forest by combining field data with mechanistic modelling [A. Hambuckers].
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University of Liège
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