Behavioral plasticity of large mammals in the Rocky Mountain to variation in temperature
Behavioral plasticity, the alteration of behavior in response to stimuli, is becoming increasingly important in the context of rapid climate change. Despite research demonstrating that climatic changes are already impacting species’ behavior worldwide, there are relatively few studies that have compared behavioral plasticity in response to increasing temperatures across species. We quantified behavioral plasticity in response to variation in summer temperatures in 17 populations across 9 species of large mammals in the Rocky Mountains. All study populations displayed behavioral plasticity in response to increasing temperatures, modifying their habitat selection and movement characteristics. We also found that there was significant variation in behavioral responses, both within and among populations. Our work demonstrates the capacity (and limits) of large mammals to mitigate rapid environmental change through behavioral plasticity, while simultaneously providing valuable information to wildlife managers on the strategic allocation of limited resources to best facilitate plasticity and population persistence.
Featured photo by Yellowstone National Park on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/zz6xmy).