BISC 102 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Brainstem, Sphex, Problem Gambling

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Anthropomorphism: Tendency to interpret animal behaviors in human terms:
Animal Behaviour:
Proximate explanations “How”: Mechanistic explanation
How is this behaviour triggered?
How does this behaviour happen?
○ Example: How do starlings flock together?
■ Separation: Avoid crowding neighbours
■ Alignment: Steer towards average heading of neighbors (same
direction as others)
■ Cohesion: Move towards average position of neighbors (aim for the
Ultimate explanation “Why”: Evolutionary explanation
Why has this behaviour evolved
Example: Why do starlings flock?
Flocks are more efficient at feeding (finding food sources) and
avoiding predators. An individual in a flock has a better theoretical
chance of surviving than a solitary individual
Behaviour: Response to a stimulus mediated by nervous system
Complex behaviour can be triggered by innate (“hard wired”) stimuli
● Stimulus:
External (Example: Sight, touch, smell, sound)
Internal (Example: Hunger, fatigue, pain)
Neural pathway: Processed in ganglia or brain
Response: Example: Action of muscles or glands
Fixed (innate) or plastic (changeable)
Two kinds:
Innate behaviour: Occurs completely first time performed
Strong genetic component
Some species have an innate behaviour that is time-limited (few hours
or days) after birth that bonds parents and offspring (birds especially).
If parents missing in critical period, other species or even moving
objects may become bonded (Genes and environment both important)
Learned behaviour: Develops and changes in response to environmental
Strong experiential and environmental component
Social & experiential learning
Example: A behavioural ecology group at Oxford is studying
tool use in New Caledonia (NC) crows.
These crows use tools to retrieve food in hidden
NC crows develop and improve tool use through
experience (experiential learning) and when taught
(social learning = problem solving without being taught)
NC crows have an inherited predisposition for tool use
Fixed Action Pattern (FAP):
Niko Tinbergen studied fixed action patterns in male sticklebacks in the 1930s
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