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Animal Behavior
Animal Behavior: An Overview
Ethology is the study of animal behavior
 Behavior is everything an animal does and
how it does it
Nature vs. Nurture
In biology, it’s not an either/or scenario
 Both genes and environment affect animal
Innate vs. Learned Behaviors
Innate behavior is developmentally fixed,
regardless of the environment
 Examples:
• Kangaroo rat jumping at the sound of a
rattlesnake, even if it has never heard a snake
• Humans using their voices to communicate
Innate Behavior –
Fixed Action Patterns
An FAP is a sequence of
unlearned behavioral
acts that is essentially
unchangeable and, once
started, is usually carried
to completion
Triggered by a sign
Aggressive behavior in
male stickleback fish in
response to the red
underside of an intruder
Yawning in humans
Innate vs. Learned Behaviors
Learned behavior is the modification of behavior
based on experience
Habituation: loss of responsiveness to stimuli that
convey little or no information
• “crying wolf”
Associative learning is the ability of many animals to
associate one feature of the environment with another
• Classical Conditioning
• an arbitrary stimulus is associated with a reward or punishment
• Pavlov’s Experiment
• Operant Conditioning
• Using consequences to modify behavior
• Mouse eating distateful caterpillar
Altruism & Inclusive Fitness
Most social behaviors are selfish
Altruism =
When an animal behaves in a way
that reduces its individual fitness
but increases the fitness of the
other individuals in the population
Example: squirrels, worker bees
Helps close relatives (children,
siblings, etc.), thereby increasing
the individual’s genetic
representation in the next
generation – “inclusive fitness”
Animal Signals & Communication
A signal is a behavior that causes a change in
another animal’s behavior
Communication involves the transmission of,
reception of, and response to signals between
Chemical Communication:
• Pheromones – particularly important in reproductive
Auditory Communication:
• Drosophila males produce a characteristic “song” by
beating their wings
Kinesis vs. Taxis
 An increase or decrease in movement in response to an
environmental stimulus
 Examples:
• As the humidity increases, wood lice move less
• Pillbugs live best in moist conditions; they move around more in dry
areas and less in moist/humid areas
• WHY???
• More movement increases likelihood they will encounter a moist area
 A movement towards or away from a stimulus
 Examples:
• Fish swimming against the current
• Bacteria swimming towards light