Sunday, September 14, 2014


Hi Everybody!!
Tonight's photostudy reveals various behaviors of baby Cassidy, the buzzard. It is difficult to see the differences of these birds at a distance, but one legged Cassidy has brought us a gift. She has allowed us an up close and personal look at the different behaviors she is learning with a handicap of one working leg. It is very easy to find her even at a distance! You may be wondering why anybody would want to understand what a baby buzzard does. For me, it is clear: the more I understand about life around me, the more I understand about me and my relationship with all life. Shared below is the Wikipedia page on Ethology, the scientific and objective study of animal behavior.

Cassidy at the front gate.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour, usually with a focus on behaviour under natural conditions.[1] Behaviourism is a term that also describes the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour, however, this term usually refers to the study of trained behavioural responses in a laboratory context.
Many naturalists have studied aspects of animal behaviour throughout history. The modern discipline of ethology is generally considered to have begun during the 1930s with the work of Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen and by Austrian biologists Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, joint winners of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[2] Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with a strong relation to some other disciplines such as neuroanatomyecology, and evolution. Ethologists are typically interested in a behavioural process rather than in a particular animal group, and often study one type of behaviour, such as aggression, in a number of unrelated animals.
The desire to understand animals has made ethology a rapidly growing field. Since the turn of the 21st century, many aspects of animal communicationanimal emotionsanimal culturelearning, and even sexual conduct that experts long thought they understood, have been re-examined, and new conclusions reached. New fields have developed, such as neuroethology.
Understanding ethology or animal behaviour can be important in animal training. Considering the natural behaviours of different species or breeds enables the trainer to select the individuals best suited to perform the required task. It also enables the trainer to encourage the performance of naturally occurring behaviours and also the discontinuance of undesirable behaviours.[3]

Theory of evolution by natural selection and the beginnings of ethology[edit]

Because ethology is considered a topic of biology, ethologists have been concerned particularly with the evolution of behaviour and the understanding of behaviour in terms of the theory of natural selection. In one sense, the first modern ethologist was Charles Darwin, whose book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals influenced many ethologists. He pursued his interest in behaviour by encouraging his protégé George Romanes, who investigated animal learning and intelligence using an anthropomorphic method, anecdotal cognitivism, that did not gain scientific support.
Other early ethologists, such as Oskar Heinroth and Julian Huxley, instead concentrated on behaviours that can be called instinctive, or natural, in that they occur in all members of a species under specified circumstances. Their beginning for studying the behaviour of a new species was to construct anethogram (a description of the main types of behaviour with their frequencies of occurrence).[4] This provided an objective, cumulative data-base of behaviour, which subsequent researchers could check and supplement.

Fixed action patterns, animal communication and modal action patterns[edit]

An important development, associated with the name of Konrad Lorenz though probably due more to his teacher, Oskar Heinroth, was the identification offixed action patterns (FAPs). Lorenz popularized FAPs as instinctive responses that would occur reliably in the presence of identifiable stimuli (called sign stimuli or releasing stimuli). These FAPs can be compared across species, and the similarities and differences between behaviour compared with the similarities and differences in morphology. A much quoted study[citation needed] of the Anatidae (ducks and geese) by Heinroth used this technique. Ethologists noted that sign stimuli were commonly features of the behaviour of conspecifics and they were able to prove how animal communication could be mediated by FAPs. One investigation of this kind was the study of thewaggle dance ("dance language") in bee communication by Karl von Frisch.[7] Lorenz subsequently developed a theory of the evolution of animal communication based on his observations of fixed action patterns and the circumstances in which they are expressed.


Kelp Gull chicks peck at red spot on mother's beak to stimulate regurgitating reflex.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines instinct as a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason.[8] For ethologists, instinct means a series of predictable behaviours for fixed action patterns. Such schemes are only acted when a precise stimulating signal is present. When such signals act as communication among members of the same species, they are known as releasers. A notable example of a releaser is the beak movements in many bird species performed by the newly hatched chicks, which stimulates the mother's regurgitating process to feed her offspring.[9] Another well-known case is the classic experiments by Tinbergen on the Graylag Goose. Like similar waterfowl, the goose rolls a displaced egg near its nest back to the others with its beak. The sight of the displaced egg triggers this mechanism. If the egg is taken away, the animal continues with the behaviour, pulling its head back as if an imaginary egg is still being manoeuvred by the underside of its beak.[10] However, it also attempts to move other egg-shaped objects, such as a giant plaster egg, door knob, or even a volleyball back into the nest. Such objects, when they exaggerate the releasers found in natural objects, can elicit a stronger version of the behavior than the natural object, so that the goose ignores its own displaced egg in favour of the giant dummy egg. These exaggerated releasers for instincts were named supernormal stimuli by Tinbergen.[11] Tinbergen found he could produce supernormal stimuli for most instincts in animals—such as cardboard butterflies that male butterflies preferred to mate with if they had darker stripes than a real female, or dummy fish that a territorial male stickleback fish fought more violently than a real invading male if the dummy had a brighter-coloured underside. Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett wrote a book about how easily humans respond to supernormal stimuli for sexual, nurturing, feeding, and social instincts.[12] However, a behaviour only made of fixed action patterns would be particularly rigid and inefficient, reducing the probability of survival and reproduction, so the learning process has great importance, as does the ability to change the individual's responses based on its experience. It can be said[by whom?] that the more the brain is complex and the life of the individual long, the more its behaviour is "intelligent" (in the sense of being guided by experience rather than stereotyped FAPs).

Tinbergen's four questions for ethologists[edit]

Lorenz's collaborator, Niko Tinbergen, argued that ethology always needed to include four kinds of explanation in any instance of behaviour:
  • Function – How does the behaviour affect the animal's chances of survival and reproduction? Why does the animal respond that way instead of some other way?
  • Causation – What are the stimuli that elicit the response, and how has it been modified by recent learning?
  • Development – How does the behaviour change with age, and what early experiences are necessary for the animal to display the behaviour?
  • Evolutionary history – How does the behaviour compare with similar behaviour in related species, and how might it have begun through the process of phylogeny?
These explanations are complementary rather than mutually exclusive—all instances of behaviour require an explanation at each of these four levels. For example, the function of eating is to acquire nutrients (which ultimately aids survival and reproduction), but the immediate cause of eating is hunger (causation). Hunger and eating are evolutionarily ancient and are found in many species (evolutionary history), and develop early within an organism's lifespan (development). It is easy to confuse such questions—for example, to argue that people eat because they're hungry and not to acquire nutrients—without realizing that the reason people experience hunger is because it causes them to acquire nutrients.[35]

Growth of the field[edit]

Due to the work of Lorenz and Tinbergen, ethology developed strongly in continental Europe during the years prior to World War II.[4] After the war, Tinbergen moved to the University of Oxford, and ethology became stronger in the UK, with the additional influence of William ThorpeRobert Hinde, and Patrick Bateson at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour of the University of Cambridge, located in the village of Madingley.[36] In this period, too, ethology began to develop strongly in North America.
Lorenz, Tinbergen, and von Frisch were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for their work of developing ethology.[37]
Ethology is now a well-recognised scientific discipline, and has a number of journals covering developments in the subject, such as Animal BehaviourAnimal WelfareApplied Animal Behaviour ScienceBehaviourBehavioral Ecology and Journal of Ethology. In 1972, the International Society for Human Ethology was founded to promote exchange of knowledge and opinions concerning human behaviour gained by applying ethological principles and methods and published their journal, The Human Ethology Bulletin. In 2008, in a paper published in the journalBehaviour, ethologist Peter Verbeek introduced the term "Peace Ethology" as a sub-discipline of Human Ethology that is concerned with issues of human conflict, conflict resolution, reconciliation, war, peacemaking, and peacekeeping behaviour.[38]
Today, along with ethologists, many biologists, zoologists, primatologists, anthropologists, veterinarians, and physicians study ethology and other related fields such as animal psychology, the study of animal social groups, animal cognition and animal welfare science

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...this is brendasue signing off from Rainbow Creek.  See you next time!