In my laboratory we study a diversity of topics related to animal behavior. Currently, there are two major themes: the sensory biology of navigation and life history tactics. Navigation is an ideal behavioral model for the study of sensory system integration and the neural substrates associated with complex behavior. The group of organisms we study are in the order Amblypygi, nocturnal arachnids that inhabit the tropics and sub-tropics. Nocturnal displacement experiments under the cover of a tropical rainforest reveal that these animals possess navigational abilities that are reminiscent, albeit on a smaller spatial scale, of true-navigating vertebrates. Their specialized antenniform legs, which possess hundreds of olfactory and tactile sensory hairs, appear to be critically involved. The complexity of their nocturnal environment may impose navigational challenges that favor the integration of information derived from multimodal cues. Indeed, amblypygids also have enormous mushroom bodies, higher-order brain regions that, in insects, integrate contextual cues and may be involved in spatial memory, which make them good candidates to study how multisensory information is centrally integrated. The conditional strategy provides a powerful explanation for the persistence of alternative behavioral tactics and more fully accommodates properties of many biological systems than traditional game theory models. In particular, the conditional strategy allows for tactic inheritance when there are differences of tactic fitness, a situation that in a game theory context is expected to eliminate the tactic that yields the lowest fitness. In many biological systems, like the population of smallmouth bass we study, negative maternal or paternal effects may complicate the inheritance of condition and, hence, the inheritance of alternative behavioral tactics. Indeed, inheritance of condition in such systems may result in the alternation of tactics across generations.
Flanigan, K. A. S., D. D. Wiegmann, E. A. Hebets, V. P. Bingman. 2021. Multisensory integration supports configural learning of a home refuge in the whip spider Phrynus marginemaculatus. Journal of Experimental Biology 224, jeb238444. doi:10.1242/jeb.238444
Wiegmann, D. D., C. H. Moore*, N. R. Flesher*, E. D. Szentkiralyi*, K. R. Keto*, E. A. Hebets and V. P. Bingman. 2019. Nocturnal navigation by whip spiders: antenniform legs mediate olfactory localization of a shelter. Animal Behaviour 149, 45-54. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.01.005
Welsh, D. P.**, D. D. Wiegmann, L. M. Angeloni, S. P. Newman, J. G. Miner and J. R. Baylis. 2017. Condition-dependent reproductive tactics in male smallmouth bass: early growth and age at first reproduction. Journal of Zoology 302, 244-251. doi: 10.1111/jzo.12454.
Wiegmann, D. D., E. A. Hebets, W. Gronenberg, J. M. Graving** and V. P. Bingman. 2016. Amblypygids: model organisms for the study of arthropod navigation mechanisms in complex environments? Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00047
Wiegmann, D. D., S. Seubert and J. G. Wade. 2010. Mate choice and optimal search behavior: fitness returns under the fixed sample and sequential search strategies. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 262, 596-600.
Wiegmann, D. D., L. M. Angeloni, J. R. Baylis and S. P. Newman. 2004. Negative maternal or paternal effects on inheritance of life history tactics under a conditional strategy. Evolution 58, 1530-1535.