Is there a biological basis for behavioural adaptation?

Christina Rudin-Brown, Paul Fletcher

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This chapter explores the possibility of a biological basis for the processes that underlie behavioural adaptation in road users. Behavioural adaptation in the road safety context has been described by some as a manifestation of intelligent behaviour (Smiley, 2000; Brown and Noy, 2004) that is intrinsic to human nature (Smiley, 2000). It is not surprising, then, that humans (ostensibly the most intelligent species on the planet) would have the ability?and inclination?to adapt their behaviour in ways that improve the likelihood of evolutionary success, or that allow for tradeoffs in terms of other measures of success. Behavioural adaptation is not a new concept, or one that is unique to road safety. In the disciplines of biology and animal behaviourism, ?adaptation? refers to ?the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment? (Oxford University Press, 2011). In this sense, a vast range of ?behavioural adaptations? has been documented in the scientific literature, from chimpanzees modifying their diet to include leaf varieties that combat disease (Huffman et al., 1996), to domestic horses changing their behaviour in efforts to cope with captivity (Cooper and Albentosa, 2005), to Antarctic fur seals altering their breathing patterns to deal with longer periods submerged underwater (Hooker et al., 2005), to slugs? responding to heat stress (McQuaid and Scherman, 1988), and finally, to native and non-native Australian animals adapting their feeding patterns to survive in a completely sodium-free environment (Blair-West et al., 1968). Behavioural adaptation is a process that takes place over a comparatively short span of time, in response to stimuli in an organism?s environment. On the other hand, evolution describes the changes in heritable characteristics that take place across multiple, successive generations of a species.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBehavioural Adaptation and Road Safety - Theory, Evidence and Action
EditorsChristina M Rudin-Brown, Samantha L Jamson
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherCRC Press
Pages265 - 287
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781439856680
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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