Lectures+1+and+2+_jan+25+and+28_

Lectures+1+and+2+_jan+25+and+28_ - IB 31 Sp 2008 Lecture I...

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IB 31, Sp. 2008 Lecture I, Jan. 25, 2007 Introduction: Proximate and Ultimate Explanations of Animal Behavior Jan. 23 was organizational. I started with a 5 min. video clip of bird of paradise displays from “Planet Earth”. I. People have been studying animal behavior for tens of thousands of years in the context of predator/prey and competitor. With the advent of the domestication of animals 10 – 12 thousand years ago (dogs perhaps 14,000), the observation and manipulation of animal behavior became even more defined since humans began to identify and select for specific behavioral traits. II. The modern study of Animal Behavior began in the late 19 th century with various natural historians and emerged as a scientific discipline in the early to mid-20 th century, primarily in Europe. The research of Konrad Lorenz, Karl von Frisch, and Niko Tinbergen laid the foundations for modern behavioral and behavioral ecological research (Nobel Prize, 1973). These initial studies were both observational as well as experimental and usually had as their base the behavior of animals in a natural setting . The term ETHOLOGY was used to describe this approach. In contrast, more laboratory based experimental work with a few typical avian and mammalian species was being conducted in the U.S in what can loosely be called comparative psychology . We will discuss this in more detail later. III. The study of animal behavior usually breaks down into two levels of explanation: How / mechanistic / proximate and Why / evolutionary / ultimate questions. Niko Tinbergen formalized this in a classic paper published in 1963 in which he identified 4 main types of questions to ask about a behavior: A. What are the mechanisms that produce the behavior? B. How does the behavior develop? C. What is the behavior’s survival value? D. How did the behavior evolve?
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Tinbergen’s four questions lie on a continuum from proximate to ultimate explanations. IV. Tinbergen (and most ethologists and comparative psychologists) used an scientific approach to look at the behavior of individuals of the same species, usually by analyzing the costs and benefits of a behavior. For example, during Tinbergen’s 20+ years studying gulls, he became interested in shell removal after a chick hatched. A. He OBSERVED that black-headed gulls always removed eggshells after a chick hatched. B. He HYPOTHESIZED that this was because the bright white inside of the eggshell was conspicuous to predators and also signaled the presence of a defenseless new chick. It is also necessary to generate alternative hypotheses that could also explain the behavior and test them. Can you think of any? Disease, sharp, ??? C. From the predator hypothesis, he PREDICTED that predators (crows) would be more likely to find nests with eggshells inside.
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