Belant, Jerrold L.
Leopold, Bruce D.
Date of Degree
Graduate Thesis - Open Access
Many ecological and evolutionary processes have been described underlying natural selection but supporting evidence in wild settings is often lacking and our understanding remains incomplete. Using a multi-scale approach, I investigated expression of facultative den behavior (denning) among and within ursid species. Among species, lack of denning behavior was supported by relaxation of selection pressures of seasonal food availability due to realization of two sources of ecological opportunity; colonization of new habitat and adaptation of key innovations. Of denning species, I found evidence of adaptive ecological plasticity in den chronology among and within populations consistent with relaxed selective pressures influencing seasonal food availability and energetic budgets. I supported these finding using indices of fitness and established ecological theory. Further knowledge of organismal response to selection pressures has practical applications in predicting responses to novel and fluctuating pressures and aids in our understanding of the complexities of ecology and evolution.
Fowler, Nicholas Lee, "Expression of Facultative Den Behavior in Ursidae" (2014). Theses and Dissertations MSU. 2189.