Animal Behavior

Animal Behavior
Causes of behavior
• Proximate Cause and Ultimate Cause
• Proximate Cause – The trigger for the behavior.
• Ultimate Cause – The evolutionary reason behind the
• A Zebra is drinking at a water hole, it hears another zebra
nearby make an alarm call. The Zebra immediately runs
away. The proximate cause of the zebra running away would
be the alarm call. But the ultimate cause for the zebra to run
is survival. It is running away because it wants to survive. The
alarm call is not the source of danger, but the alarm call alerts
the zebra that danger, may be nearby and the lion can
threaten the zebra's chance to survive.
Anthropomorphism – a challenge to
studying animal behavior
• Anthropomorphism occurs when we use human emotions
or human traits to describe animals or living things
incapable of human emotion. Ex: My dog is happy, he likes
• What’s the problem? From a scientific perspective we can
only describe what we see as behavior- dog wagging it’s tail
or jumping up and down, barking, etc. we cannot possibly
interpret the dogs emotion – we can’t really be certain that
a dog is capable of emotion.
• However…….anthropomorphic language is sometimes used
to help us grasp a tough concept, and it is possible that
there are animals with some capability for emotion.
Categories of Animal Behaviors
Feeding Behavior
Competitive Behavior
Reproductive Behavior
Social Behavior
Cyclic Behavior
Feeding Behavior
• What types of behaviors make it more or less
likely a given animal will be successful in it’s
search for food.
• Ex: Bird drops a snail from great heights to crack
shell and get to food.
• Optimality Hypothesis – animals tend to behave
in a way that maximizes food gathering while
minimizing effort and exposure to predators.
Competitive Behavior – usually based
upon the “fight” for resources.
• Aggressive Behavior
• Territorial Behavior
• Dominance Behavior
Reproductive Behavior
• Sexual Selection – choosing a mate
• Mating Systems – monogamy / polygamy
• Parental Behavior – Parental investment
Sight and sound – warning colors / mimicry
Chemicals – Pheremones
Touch –
Language – written / spoken / grammar rules
etc. (human)
Social Behavior
• Social Groups
• Alturism
Cyclic Behavior – often in response to
cyclical changes in the environment.
• Biological Rhythms – Nocturnal / diurnal.
• Migratory Behavior – periodic movement
characteristic of a species.
Genes and Behavior
• Innate Behaviors – Instincts (inherited)
– Fixed action pattern
• Learned Behavior – modification of behavior
based upon experience
– Habituation
– Reasoning
4 Questions to ask when considering
an animal’s behavior.
• What causes the behavior? What is the
stimulus that causes a response?
• What is the role of genes in the behavior; and
how does it develop during an individual’s
• What is the evolutionary history of the
• How does the behavior affect the organism’s
survival and reproduction?
Your task:
• Pick a behavior category and begin “digging” find an animal
or a specific example of that behavior and become an
expert in that behavior……..or at least as much of an expert
as you can in the next 30 minutes. Take notes in your
notebook and be able to share something of interest or
value to the class on your chosen topic. If you reach a “dead
end” start a new path.
Feeding behavior
Competitive behavior
Reproductive behavior
Social behavior
Cyclic behavior