ProjectHabituation in ecological contexts: exploring the among-individual variation in habituation in eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus)
Habituation is a learning process whereby an individual decreases its response to a stimulus after repeated exposure. It is therefore a form of behavioural plasticity, which can have important evolutionary implications. It can, for instance, increase or decrease fitness, influence the rate and outcome of evolution, as well as maintain among-individual variation. Yet the adaptive importance of habituation, particularly under natural conditions, is still not well understood. I am mainly interested in two research questions: 1) is there inter-individual variation in the rate of habituation to a stimulus? and 2) are there ecological contexts that increase among-individual variation in the rate of habituation? I will investigate these questions using data from a long-term monitoring project on a population of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) in the Sutton Mountains. I hope to clarify the importance of the phenomenon from an evolutionary perspective.