Bruno Ethogram - Behavior Patterns of the Eastern Grey...

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Behavior Patterns of the Eastern Grey Squirrel ( Sciurus carolinensis ) Bruno Torres Dr. Bill Alexander May 11, 2009 11:00 a.m. Class Introduction Beginning in the early 20 th century, biologists began to wonder about the underlying forces that drove animals to perform certain behaviors. One school of thought became known as comparative psychology. Comparative psychologists postulated that an animal’s behavior was the result of that individual’s unique genetic makeup and that there was little room for innovation. Conversely, another group of scientists hypothesized that animal behavior was the result of an individual’s unique life experiences and knowledge that had been acquired over time. That group came to be called ethologists and their field, ethology. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “ethology” as “the scientific and objective study of animal behavior especially under natural conditions” (Merriam-Webster). Konrad Lorenz was one of three significant, early ethologists. The others were Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch. The three men won the 1973 Nobel Prize for their research on the dancing behavior of honey bees (Thompson Gale). Lorenz most important contribution to ethology was the discovery of imprinting—a phenomenon seen mostly in ducks and geese. Imprinting is the process wherein a newly hatched bird will learn to accept its parent within a genetically set timeframe (Marler). He experimented with Grey-leg Geese and found that if he exposed himself to the goslings early enough, they would learn to follow him. Lorenz also identified fixed-action patterns in animals. A fixed-action pattern is a set of actions which are stereotyped but allow some modification and are generally context-specific (Marler). Ethologists have expanded the field of zoology immensely and their research has provided many insights into the realm of animal behavior. The goal of ethology is to sufficiently observe a species in its natural habitat in order to fully catalogue every behavior in that species repertoire. Once biologists understand why animals exhibit certain behaviors, they can then begin to examine how that behavior affects the individual and how it evolved within the species. Methods and Materials Our group consisted of Alex Kabil, Hali Hodgins, Bruno Torres, and Ayush Kumar. For
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observational purposes, a pair of Mirador 8x64 Binoculars was provided by the instructor. The binoculars were focused prior to beginning field work. The species of observation was the Eastern Grey Squirrel ( Sciurus carolinensis ). For the majority of the observations, one person was designated the observer and the others would take notes as the observer dictated the various activities of the subject squirrel. Notes were written down using pen or pencils on loose-leaf notebook paper. Grey squirrels were observed on and off of the Governor’s School for Science and
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Bruno Ethogram - Behavior Patterns of the Eastern Grey...

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