51 Mission: Studying Behavior

This chapter will literally answer all of your burning questions about animal behavior. It will take your preconceived notions of ecology and turn them upside down. Three cheers for slaving over a massive A.P Bio text book in order to present this knowledge to everyone.

In this chapter, we have a lot to cover. Shocking, I know.
Introduction to behavioral ecology:
  1. Define Behavior
  2. Understand the difference between proximate and ultimate questions about behavior.
  3. Define fixed action patterns and give an example
  4. Define imprinting.

The Genetic Component of behavior:
  1. Explain how genes and an environment contribute to behavior.
  2. Distinguish between kinesis and taxis.

Learned Behavior:
  1. Explain habituation and how it can influence behavior.
  2. Distinguish between landmarks and cognitive maps.
  3. Describe associative learning and why it's important.
  4. Explain classical and operant conditioning.

And, finally, address behavioral traits that have evolved by the almighty natural selection.
Let's uh, get started.

Introduction to behavioral ecology:
Ethology:The study of animal behavior.

What's behavior?
Behavior: The way in which an animal or person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus.

innate = inherited or developmentally fixed

learned = develop during animal’s lifetime

Inate Behavior- despite different environments, all individuals exhibit the behavior
triggered by a stimulus
Learned Behaviors-modified by experience variable
triggered by a stimulus

  • Scientific questions that can be posed about any behavior can be divided into two classes: those that focus on the immediate stimulus and mechanism for the behavior and those that explore how the behavior contributes to survival and reproduction.
    • Behavioral traits are important parts of an animal's phenotype
    • Alot of animal behavior results from an animal’s muscular activity, such as a predator chasing a prey.
    • Some nonmuscular activities are also behaviors, such as when an animal secretes a pheromone to attract a member of the opposite sex.
    • Birdsongs are a less obvious behavior.
    • Learning is also a behavioral process!

Distinguishing between proximate and ultimate causes of behavior.

Proximate Question - In animal behavior, an inquiry that focuses on the environmental stimuli, if any, that trigger a particular behavioral act, as well as the genetic, physiological, and anatomical mechanisms underlying it.

Ultimate Question - In animal behavior, an inquiry that focuses on the evolutionary significance of a behavioral act.

What is a fixed action pattern, you ask? I will gladly inform you.

  • A fixed action behavior is hard-wired and instinctive.
  • Fixed action patterns are invariant and are produced by a neural network known as the innate releasing mechanism in response to an external sensory stimulus known as a sign stimulus or release
  • Example: Mating dances carried out by birds are an instinctual, fixed pattern.

Imprinting is a process whereby a young animal follow the characteristics of his/her mother after hatching.It can be filial imprinting or followiing a future mating partner.
The most common and popular cases of imprinting are with young geese.

Next, we learn about the relationship between genetics, the environment, and behavior.