Many of the more spectacular biological phenomena in the tropics, such as mimicry and camouflage, involve behavioral interactions, and the same is true for numerous processes such as pollination and parasitism, among others. Moreover, like Janus in Roman mythology, behavior has two faces in evolution: behavior evolves like any other characteristic (trait) that has heritability (continuity across generations); and behavior also acts as "pacemaker" of evolution and drives evolutionary change in other characteristics.

Behavioral researchers at STRI are strongly committed to studies of individually marked animals in their natural settings, with the studies framed by an evolutionary perspective. Staff research addressed the evolution of communication, sexual and social behavior, pollination and foraging biology, and learning, among other topics. Studies of animal behavior impinge on nearly all major areas of tropical biology. By studying individual organisms and how they respond to their physical and social environments, behavioral studies weave together the diverse conceptual strands of STRI research by relating the organism to its parts (as seen by our geneticists and physiologists) and to its surroundings (as seen by our ecologists and paleontologists), coupled with knowledge of phylogenetic history (as seen by our molecular systematists). Because different levels of biological organization impinge on animal behavior, behavioral studies have a unique, integrative role in establishing conceptual links among researchers working at different levels (e.g., molecular, physiological, community), and can rapidly synthesize new findings from other areas of biology.

STRI is currently expanding its behavior program by establishing a new Laboratory for Behavior & Evolutionary Neurobiology to understand adaptive behavior and its evolution from a neurobiological perspective.

Staff scientists researching Behavior