Research methods: towards an integrative approach

An integrative approach including ultimate and proximate mechanisms is essential for a comprehensive understanding of animal behaviour. Since its emergence as a scientific discipline, ethology or ‘behavioural biology’ has gone through different phases and fashions focusing either on causal or evolutionary mechanisms, but increasingly the need for an integrative approach has become obvious. Furthermore, behavioural research typically focuses on laboratory ‘model species’ allowing the application of sophisticated genetic and physiological techniques, which comes at a cost regarding our understanding of ecological conditions selecting for behavioural adaptations. Another widespread shortcoming in behavioural research is the lack of an appropriate theoretical framework. All this highlights the need for due awareness and continual efforts to optimise our approach and methodology.

Scheme of an integrative framework for the study of social behaviour (from Hofmann et al. 2014, Trends Ecol Evol 29, 581-589).


Link to website: Michael Taborsky

Sample publications:

von Kuerthy, C., Ros, A.F., Taborsky, M. (2016): Androgen responses to reproductive competition of males pursuing either fixed or plastic alternative reproductive tactics. J. Exp. Biol. 219: 3544-3553 [PDF]

Taborsky, M., Taborsky, B. (2015) Evolution of genetic and physiological mechanisms of cooperative behaviour. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 6, 132-138 [PDF]

Taborsky, M., Hofmann, H.A., Beery, A.K., Blumstein, D.T., Hayes, L.D., Lacey, E.A., Martins, E.P., Phelps, S.M., Solomon, N.G. & Rubenstein, D.R. (2015): Taxon matters: promoting integrative studies of social behavior. Trends in Neurosciences. 38:189-191 [PDF]

Taborsky M (2014): Tribute to Tinbergen: The Four Problems of Biology. A Critical Appraisal. Ethology 120: 224-227 [PDF]

Taborsky M. (2008): The use of theory in behavioural research. Ethology 114:1-6 [PDF]