Animal Behavior

Animal behaviorism--or ethology--is a branch of zoology. The word ethology derives from the Greek words ethos ("character"), and logia ("the study of").

While the behavior of animals has been studied throughout the history of science, modern ethology saw its structured and documented beginnings with the work of such naturalists as Nikolaas Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch.

Ethological investigation melds field and laboratory research; and benefits from contributions from such other biological disciplines as ecology, anatomy, neurology and evolution.

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Recently Updated
Herbivore Last Updated on 2014-06-29 19:25:53 A herbivore is an animal that obtains its energy and nutrients by feeding on plants.  Different types of herbivores eat different plant parts.  For example, folivores feed on leaves, frugivores feed on fruits, granivores feed on seeds, pollinivores feed on pollen, and nectarivores feed on nectar. Herbivores can vary greatly in size, ranging from the largest terrestrial animals (elephants) and large marine mammals such as manatees and dugongs, to small insects, nematodes, and thrips.  Herbivores are primary consumers (they receive their energy by consuming primary producers), so they play an important trophic role in ecological communities and food webs.   Because mature leaves are low in nutrients, and difficult to digest because of their high cellulose content, animals use many different strategies to eat leaves. Animals that feed on grass leaves are generally... More »
Bartholomew, George A. Last Updated on 2014-06-23 18:04:09 George A. Bartholomew, an American organismal biologist, developed the foundational concepts of the energetics of animals. His work on energy use in animals, especially in mammals and insects, marked a cornerstone in the field of physiological ecology. Through field and laboratory studies, integrated in part by computer modeling, He used energy flows to synthesize concepts across the fields of animal behavior, ecology, and physiology, combining relevant aspects of these areas to assess the evolutionary significance of adjustments or adaptations of animals to their environments. Bartholomew was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985. Further Reading Huey, R. B. and G. E. Hofmann, 2005. Introduction: A Symposium Honoring George A. Bartholomew. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 45:217-218. More »
Altruistic behaviors Last Updated on 2014-06-23 18:00:42 Altruistic traits are traits that reduce the fitness (survival or reproduction) of the individual with the trait (known as the “actor”) while increasing the fitness of other individuals (known as the “recipients”). A classic example of an altruistic behavior is the “warning call” given by many species of animals including ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and passerine birds. If an individual observes an attacking predator it may give a call that has two effects. First, when other nearby individuals hear the call they recognize that danger is near and flee to safety. Individuals that hear the early warning (the recipients) benefit by having a decreased chance of being killed by the predator. However, by giving the warning call, the caller (the actor) delays his/her opportunity to flee to safety and attracts the attention of the predator, thus... More »
Interspecific competition Last Updated on 2014-06-23 17:48:24 Interspecific competition occurs between members of two, or more, different species. Individuals may compete over a variety of limiting resources including food, water, light, soil resources, or space. Members of different species may compete by exploitative competition or by interference competition. Interspecific competition is an important factor limiting the population size of many species. In addition, interspecific competition can limit the number of species that can coexist in a community and affect the phenotypic characteristics of organisms in an attempt to reduce the effects of competition. Interspecific competition is an important factor limiting the population size of many species. The growth rate of a species will be limited as the population size of their competitors increases, either because they have access to fewer limiting resources (exploitative... More »
Kin selection Last Updated on 2014-06-23 17:44:30 Kin selection is a hypothesis developed by W.D. Hamilton to explain altruism among close relatives. An altruistic behavior decreases the fitness (survival and/or reproductive success) of the individual performing the act (the actor) while increasing the fitness of other individuals (the recipients). Individuals not only pass on their genes through their own reproduction (individual fitness) but also by helping relatives survive to reproduce. Since close relatives have a higher probability of sharing genes through common descent than do more distant ones, altruistic acts performed preferentially toward kin will favor the very genes that code for the behavior. Hamilton termed this phenomenon inclusive fitness. Kin selection thus provides a mechanism by which some genes can increase in population frequency even though they decrease the actor's fitness. Whether or not an... More »