In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the British Ecological Society, Sutherland et al. (2013) identified 100 questions of fundamental significance in “pure” (i.e., not applied) ecology. A somewhat unexpected outcome of these authors’ exercise was the realization that, after 100 years of comprehensive, intensive scientific research, there remained “profound knowledge
gaps” in ecology, such as a clear understanding of “the central mechanisms driving ecosystems…communities…, and even population dynamics.” Animal behavior (along with other attributes such as physiology and genetics) is such a mechanism that can structure ecological interactions, and the study of behavioral ecology provides important insights into many fundamental ecological phenomena. For example, the well-known historical characterization of ecology as the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms (Andrewartha and Birch 1954) invokes numerous questions, such as: what factors influence coexistence among competing species, or between predators and their prey? Ultimately, the answers to these and other questions are best addressed with fine-scale, mechanistic studies of habitat selection, foraging behavior/prey selection, and movement/dispersal behavior.
Similarly, at the population level, insight into the spatial distribution of individuals could be gained with studies of territoriality, dominance hierarchies, and even mate choice.