Early theoretical models in behavioral ecology were simple, based on economic approaches, and assumed that animals would always act to optimize their reproductive success. These models played an important function in the development of the field, because they led to empirical tests. The result was more-refined models, but also the realization that the diverse aspects of behavior evolve together in complex ecological contexts. The scientific study of animal behavior is still young, a much more recent field than others in biology. We have learned that simple adaptive models often do not explain the evolution of behavior. Careful study of the social behavior of any animal group reveals behavior that is surprisingly diverse and rich, and comprehensive field studies are needed to explain how natural selection shapes social behavior. Understanding the behavioral ecology of social groups will help us to develop more refined and accurate evolutionary hypotheses.

See also: Altruism; Communication; Cooperation; Hunting; Kin Selection; Mating Systems; Optimal Foraging Theory; Optimal Foraging.

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