The study of animal behavior is undoubtedly one of the oldest branches of biology. Many scientists have studied animal behavior over time such as Niko Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch. When you study the normal patterns of animal behavior abnormalities can suggest imbalances in the ecosystems. By learning the habits of the animals around them, early humans increased their chances of securing a meal and decreased their chances of becoming a meal. Animals have all different types of behaviors; releasers, imprinting and different types of communication. It is safe to say animals are very smart!
The research field known as ethology is where the modern behavioral biology gained its roots. Ethology, which originated in the 1930s with naturalists who wanted to understand how different types of animals behave in their natural habitats. How many animals can carry out many behaviors without ever having seen them preformed was one of the major subjects of early ethological research. The most successful naturalists, who shared a Nobel Prize in 1973 for their discoveries were; Niko Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz and Karl van Frisch.
Between 1930 and 1950, the Austrian naturalist Konrad Lorenz and the Dutch ethologist Niko Tinbergen found that certain animals show fixed-action patterns of behavior, which are strong responses to specific stimuli. For example, male stickleback fish attack other breeding males that enter their territory. The defending male recognizes intruders by a red stripe on their underside. Tinbergen found that the male sticklebacks he was studying were so aware of the red stripe that they would try to attack passing red British mail trucks visible through the glass of their tanks! Tinbergen termed the red stripe a behavioral releaser, a simple stimulus that brings about a fixed action pattern.
A fixed-action pattern is a series of behaviors that is essentially unchangeable and usually carried to completion once initiated. The initiation of a fixed action pattern is in response to an external sensory stimulus known as a sign stimulus or a releaser. Usually, the sign stimulus is some feature of another species. For example, once a fixed-action pattern is initiated, it continues to completion even if circumstances change. If an egg rolls out of a gooses nest, the goose stretches her neck until the underside of her bill touches the egg. Then she rolls the egg back to the nest. If someone takes the egg away while she is reaching for it, the goose goes through the motions anyway without an egg. Fixed action patterns have innate components.
Also, in Tinbergen observed that sticklebacks perform an elaborate mating ritual, carried out the same way each time. First the male stakes out a little area of sand on the bottom of the ditch. This becomes his territory, defended against all other males. The male stickleback then digs a little hole, shoveling sand with his snout until the hole is about two inches deep and two inches wide. He gathers stringy pieces of algae, coats them with a sticky substance secreted from his kidneys, and piles the algae in the pit, forming a little mound. Finally, the male stickleback wiggles through the mount, leaving a tunnel. Now the stickleback changes color, becoming bluish white on the back and bright red on the underside. In this colorful, conspicuous dress the male at once begins to court females. The females, in the meantime, have become fat with hundreds of eggs. When the male sights a female, he darts toward her then veers toward the nest. She follows in a distinctive head-up posture. The male leads her up to the nest and thrusts his snout into the tunnel. The female then slides into the nest, her head sticking out one end, her tail out the other. The male prods near the base of her tail with his snout, and this causes her to lay eggs in the nest. When she swims out, the male swims into the nest and fertilizes the eggs. He repeats this ritual with several females. As his mating urge wears off, the males colors gradually fade and he takes up a sentry position near the nest, fanning the eggs with his fins in order to keep them supplied with oxygen. As the eggs mature, they need more oxygen and the male spends more time fanning them. Finally the babies hatch and the male rounds up strays by catching them in his mouth and carrying them back to the area of the nest. When the babies become large enough, they wander off.
Tinbergen worked with a species he knew and loved. He centered his observations on instinctive behavior linked to the reproductive cycle. He combined naturalistic observation and experimentation, and he studied behavior patterns set off by specific stimuli.
Imprinting is a fixed action pattern to a stimulus that is learned rather than a stimulus that is innately known. Two things distinguish imprinting from other types of learning An imprint, once learned, is never forgotten, it is irreversible. An imprint can only be learned during a critical period, which is defined as the limited time during which an imprint may be learned, typically early in life.
The interaction of heredity and learning can be observed in a learning program known as imprinting, seen more frequently in birds. Imprinting is the learning of a behavior at a critical period early in life that becomes permanent. Konrad Lorenz studied such behavior in the 1930s. Newly hatched geese are able to walk at birth. They survive because they follow their parents. But Lorenz wondered how these young geese recognize their parents from all the objects in the environment Lorenz found that if he removed the parents from view the first day after hatching and he walked in front of the young geese, they would follow him. This tactic did not work if he waited until the third day after hatching. Lorenz concluded that during a critical period, the goslings follow their parents movement and learn enough about their parents to recognize them. Since Lorenz found that young geese will follow any moving object, he determined that movement is their releaser for parental imprinting.
Karl von Frisch??™s work centered on investigations of the sensory perceptions of the honeybee and he was one of the first to translate the meaning of the waggle dance. His theory was disputed by other scientists and greeted with skepticism at the time. Only recently was it definitively proved to be an accurate theoretical analysis. He is best known for two major discoveries about honeybees. First, he demonstrated that honeybees have color vision. Second he showed that honeybees use a dance language to communicate food locations to other bees.
His demonstration of color vision is simple. He trained bees to feed on a dish of sugar water set on a colored card. He then set the colored card in the middle of an array of gray-toned cards. If the bees see the colored card, as a shade of gray, then they will confuse the colored card with at least one of the gray-toned cards; bees arriving to feed will visit more than one card in the array. On the other hand, if they have color vision, then the bees visit only the colored card, as it is visually distinct from the other cards. This clever test for color vision can be applied to any animal, which can learn to recognize a feeding station using visual patterns. He also observed that once one honeybee finds a feeding station, many other soon appear at the same station. This suggests that the first bee recruits other bees to the food. Karl von Frisch?s discovery of the dance language of the honey bee required careful determination of the correlations between movements of bees inside the hive and the locations of feeding stations. He found two types of dance. The round dance causes bees to look for food a short distance from the hive. The waggle dance tells bees the direction and distance to fly to find more distant food sources. Scout bees use these dances to recruit assistance in collecting food resources. Similar dances are used when bees swarm, to help the swarm find a new home. In this case scouts dance to direct bees in the swarm to hollow trees, caves, or other likely nesting sites. After a number of bees have visited each nesting site, a voting process takes place, until one site wins out by having more bees dance for it.
Frischs honeybee work included the study of the pheromones that are emitted by the queen bee and her daughters, which maintain the hives very complex social order. Outside the hive, the pheromones cause the male bees, or drones, to become attracted to a queen and mate with it. Inside the hive, the drones are not affected by the odor.
Animal Communication is used for social interactions, mating and protection. A signal is a behavior that causes a change in the behavior of another individual and is the basis for animal communication. The signals include; visual signals, auditory signals, chemicals and tactile mechanisms. Visual signals can be expressed in aggression. The animals that use this type of communication are stickleback fish attacking anything that is red or a cat hissing hinting to get away. Another type of visual signals is courtship. Courtship can also be displayed among stickleback fish, from movements of the male/female, leading up to copulation only lasting a few minutes. Auditory signals are the use of song??™s in birds or crickets to communicate with each other. Animals that communicate by odors emit chemical signals called pheromones. These are especially common among mammals and insects and often relate to reproductive behavior. For example, releaser pheromones are what female moths release to attract males. Primer pheromones are when queen bee??™s or ants prevent development of reproductive ability. Tactile mechanisms are the use of movements or touch; Karl von Frisch??™s bee dance is a great example of tactile where the bees are dancing to locate food.
The study of animal behavior is Ethology. Niko Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch who wanted to find out how animals saw the world have conducted a large part of the studies. In studying an animal??™s behavior many interesting and new things can be learned. The studies of Tinbergen, Lorenz and von Frisch were fascinating. It??™s amazing how releasers, imprinting and animal communications all work. Humans have just simply learned from animals to develop their behaviors today,