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Animal Behavior

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Behavior Overview 0:04
    • Behavior
    • Origin of Behavior
    • Competitive Advantage
  • Innate Behaviors 2:05
    • Genetically Based
    • Instinct
    • Fixed Action Pattern
  • Learned Behavior 5:13
    • Habituation
    • Classical Conditioning
    • Operant Conditioning
  • Imprinting 10:17
    • Learned Behavior That Can Only Occur in a Specific Time Period
    • Sensitive Period
  • Cognitive Behaviors 11:53
    • Thinking, Reasoning, and Processing Information
    • Examples
  • Competitive Behaviors 14:40
    • Agonistic Behavior
    • Dominance Hierarchies
    • Territorial Behaviors
  • More Types of Behavior 17:05
    • Foraging Behaviors
    • Migratory Behaviors
    • Biological Rhythms
  • Communication Behaviors 20:37
    • Pheromones
    • Auditory Communication
  • Courting and Nurturing Behaviors 23:42
    • Courting Behaviors
    • Nurturing Behaviors
  • Cooperative Behaviors 26:47
    • Benefit All Members of the Group
    • Example

Transcription: Animal Behavior

Hi, welcome back to, this is the lesson on animal behavior.0000

Behavior overview first, what is a behavior?0006

It is an animal response to a stimulus.0010

A stimulus is anything in the environment that has done a change, something that is occurring and the animal noticing that.0012

Sometimes, the environment is actually internal though.0019

We will react to things that happen in our own body.0022

We react to things that happen outside of our body.0024

Sometimes, the stimulus is internal and sometimes it is external.0027

A stimulus will initiate a response, that response is the behavior.0031

What is the origin, where does it come from, what is the origin of behavior?0035

Is it from genetics, is it from learning, that is the question.0041

Sometimes, it can be in our DNA, there is something in our DNA that is causing us to have this reaction.0045

Regardless of the environmental exposure that this individual has had, they will react the same way.0052

Sometimes, the environment has given the animal enough information0057

and changes behavior overtime to adjust to the environment.0062

That is the whole nurture and nature thing, like nature referring to the DNA,0066

nurture referring to how they have been exposed to different environmental factors.0071

Sometimes, the behavior is innate, it is completely from the genes, it is instinctual.0076

Other times, it is learned over time.0083

Behavior give a competitive advantage, that is why they have been retained.0086

Over evolutionary periods, they can be enhanced and modified for the better.0089

Darwin talked about descent with modification, it is baby steps that get to the point0096

where you have these amazing behaviors today.0100

But of course, if the behavior gives any competitive advantage, it can either be passed on via genes0103

or passed on with teaching it via learned behavior, it will be retained.0108

It is going to benefit.0114

Natural selection is a big part of it, here we have some chimps playing around.0116

There are lots of interesting behaviors that you can see in primates.0121

Innate behaviors, these are genetically based, they are not learned.0126

Innate pretty much means instinct.0132

It is within, you are born with it.0135

A stimulus triggers an innate response, here is an example.0139

Dogs and members of the wolf group, canines, they communicate via howling.0144

It depends on what is going on, sometimes they will bark, sometimes they will howl.0150

If you have a pet dog, and an ambulance drives by with the sirens, the dog would start doing that.0155

That is an innate response, it will take a long time for it to realize that is an ambulance.0163

Maybe, with the owner disciplining the dog, maybe they will stop doing it.0170

To the dog, it sounds like a howl from an animal a little ways away.0174

They just have that automatic reaction, that is an innate response.0180

It is observed in animals population even in different environmental conditions.0185

Even in different environmental conditions, that is a way you can eliminate the environments impact on it and modify the behavior overtime.0189

Because, if you have two animals of the same species that are in very different environmental conditions but still do the same thing,0198

that is a good sign that it is probably programmed within their DNA, which they have a lot of similarities because it is the same species.0204

One example of an innate behavior is a fixed action pattern, or FAP.0212

A fixed action pattern, here are two example.0218

Goose with eggs, a lot of geese, the mother, has this automatic reaction where,0221

if the egg moves too much, she will start moving the egg like this with her beak.0227

She automatically does it, pushing it.0235

Even if you move the egg away from her, she will still keep doing this.0237

It is just she is programmed to do this egg moving.0242

To move and protect her eggs and keep them alive.0246

It is an interesting reaction, it is just fixed action.0252

She is just going to do this thing, when that particular stimulus is noticed.0256

Another one with birds is baby cuckoos knocking out other eggs.0261

With a cuckoo bird, typically, the mother will lay eggs in some other nest.0267

Another birds nests, it is not the same species.0273

When her babies hatch, they have an automatic reaction to push eggs out of the nest because that is competition for resources.0276

Does the baby bird realize what it is doing, that it is pushing them out, as a selfish thing, I do not know.0285

What we do know is that it automatically does it, it is not a learned behavior.0292

Long time ago, a baby had this tendency to do that, it did it.0297

It was passed on, in terms of this urge and this tendency to do it, and it is via what they are born with, it is that innate DNA.0304

Learned behavior, this results from an interaction between innate behaviors which come from DNA, and experience.0314

It is the environment impacting that and changing it overtime.0322

Habituation is one example, a decrease in response after repeated exposure.0326

We have all experienced habituation.0331

If you are exposed to the same stimulus over and over on a daily basis, and it has no negative impact on you,0333

you are going to start to ignore it, that is habituation.0340

I have heard that people who work in a perfume store or store that has a very strong smell, they eventually get habituated to it.0343

They eventually stop noticing it.0353

But, when their friends go and visit them at work, they will ask how do you stand it in here, you do not notice it anymore.0355

That is habituation.0361

Another example with birds would be, when a baby bird hatches in its nest, they will react to everything that is up above them, like a leaf will hit them and they will freak out.0362

Something will fly overhead that is not a predatory bird, and they will freak out and react to it.0372

Over time, if they keep seeing that particular stimulus and noticing it, and there is no negative effect with it,0378

it is actually better for them to ignore it, it is a waste of energy if they keep ignoring it.0386

That is habituation.0390

Classic conditioning, this is when unrelated stimuli are associated together and has an impact on the animal's behavior.0392

The classic example is Pavlov's dogs, a Russian scientist named Ivan Pavlov.0400

He was interested in dogs reaction to food, physiologically.0406

Here you have a dog that has been preserved with taxidermy, it is no longer alive but it is preserved.0411

This is what Pavlov did with a lot of them, he tied this device to catch saliva in this little area and measure saliva secretions.0417

He also measured secretions from the gut, the gastric secretions, in response to food exposure.0427

What he is famous for is, he would actually expose dogs to meat or meat powder.0433

When he did that, he will ring a bell, the dogs kept associating the bell with the food.0440

Every time they get fed with the bell, they would salivate because they are going to get fed.0447

After doing enough time and tying it together, the unrelated bell with the food,0453

Eventually, he just rings the bell and the dogs would start salivating because they are tying together those two stimuli.0458

That just shows that depending on what animals are exposed to in their environment, it can impact their reactions.0465

Operant conditioning is a little bit different from classical conditioning,0471

because it comes with a positive or negative rewards.0474

You can consider back to classical, the Pavlovian thing with the animal is rewarded with food.0478

No, the food was just normal part of its day, being fed like it normally would.0484

It was associating something completely unrelated to the feeding aspect with that.0489

With operant conditioning, you are pairing some kind of exposure with either positive or negative rewards.0496

The animal that gets the positive reward will keep going to do that.0504

The animal that gets the negative reward will probably stop doing that.0507

Here is an example, BF Skinner, the scientist who used rats.0511

He actually had this little lever inside their cage, when they will bump into the lever, a piece of food will come out.0517

At first, when they bumped the lever they will just eat the food and would not even realize what they have done.0523

But after doing it enough times, they realized that every time I hit this lever, this awesome thing happens, I get food.0528

I will keep doing this, that is when you finally paired together like hit the lever, get the prize, and they keep doing it.0537

They will keep overfeeding themselves, doing it over and over.0545

There are other versions that are not pleasant to think about where the animal get shocked, if it hit something.0548

It is probably going to stop hitting that thing, if it has that negative reward which is really not quite a reward at all.0555

That is operant conditioning.0562

Another example in the wild would be jays, a kind of bird, and monarchs a kind of a butterfly.0563

Monarch butterflies, they have a toxic substance inside of them.0569

Jays that will initially eat monarchs, it is not instinctive for them to avoid it.0575

They will eat a monarch and it will taste nasty, some of them get sick.0582

They realize it that they are not doing that again.0586

It is a negative reward, they do not want to again, they are probably not going to go after that particular stimulus, that particular monarch.0589

They might even avoid viceroy butterflies because viceroy butterflies look very similar but they are not toxic,0597

they are palatable, they are pretty tasty and will give nourishment.0605

That is an example of animal in the wild noticing not to do it again, their behavior has changed because of environmental factors.0609

Imprinting, this is a kind of a learned behavior that can only occur in a very specific time period.0618

Usually, it is early on in life, that the examples that we talked about with imprinting.0624

It occurs during what is known as a sensitive period.0629

A classic example is newly hatched birds.0632

There are lots of bird species that, when they hatch, whatever image they see after being hatched,0636

they think that is mother, I need to follow mother around.0643

That is a good thing, it ensures that babies are attached to something, specifically the mother,0647

that is going to care for them and nourish them until they are old enough to live on their own.0652

It is interesting when scientists play around with that.0657

There have been examples of birds following around an old man, a human man,0660

because they imprinted on him when they were born and thought he was the mother.0666

They have done this, they played around the sensitive period in a lab setting numerous times,0671

showing that this does exist in the animal kingdom.0676

Salmon with chemicals, here is a little drawing of salmon.0681

Amazingly, they have this ability to smell with olfaction, this particular chemical signature0685

where they know to go back to a certain stream to spawn every year.0693

That is something where they were exposed to that unique smell early on in their life, in that sense of that period.0697

They just know where to go to get that smell, and they know when they have basically made it home0704

to spawn with other salmon and make babies.0710

Cognitive behavior, cognition is all about thinking, using your brain, and figuring out the world and problem solving.0715

This is thinking, reasoning, and processing information.0722

Any cognitive behavior, it is going to give you an advantage in making it as an animal.0726

Birds, primates like us, and even octopi, have been observed engaging in these types of behaviors.0731

The bigger brain you have, the more likely it is you are engaging in cognition.0737

Two examples, ravens or crows are very smart animals.0741

You might not think at first glance that they are, but there are a lot of examples.0749

I have seen a video of a raven actually using a crosswalk.0752

With enough observation of its surroundings, it can realize that, if I do not want to get hit by a car and0757

I want to pick up a piece of food on the ground where the cars are,0762

I’m going to wait for something to happen with the light and people walking.0766

I have seen them waiting for the little man to appear to signal walk, that is pretty amazing, that is a cognitive behavior.0770

That is not something they were born knowing.0778

They figured out something with their environments to do it.0781

Another example is, there is a study done with a little vending machine for ravens or crows.0784

There was a reward system that took weeks for the birds to get.0791

They realized that, if they took little coins on the ground,0795

if they pick them up with their beak and put them in a slot, peanuts would come out.0798

They would eat the peanuts.0802

Eventually, the other birds of the same population nearby caught on,0804

the one who figured it out was not very happy. That is an example of cognition.0808

Figuring out something in the environment, realizing here is my advantage,0815

and that is definitely something that can be helpful with the organism towards survival.0819

Chimps have been observed doing so many different cognitive behaviors.0824

I have seen a lots of videos, one where they will take a stick, rip off branches from a tree,0828

and they will put it down in an ant colony and they get ants on it, it is a little snack for them.0836

Without sticking the branch inside the ant colony, it will be really hard for them to get access to those insects, but that is cognition.0842

Another one, you could say that in lab settings, there have been examples where, it is a similar task,0850

we are trying to get something deep down.0859

But, there will be a long tube where they cannot stick their hand down and there is food at the bottom,0861

and they are given glasses of water.0866

Some of them will realize, if I take this water and poured it into the tube, I can make that thing float and grab it.0868

It definitely happened in a lab setting, that is a cognitive behavior, for sure.0875

Competitive behaviors, competition between individuals for control over resources.0881

A few examples, agonistic behavior, this is between two individuals of the same species, like bears or rams.0887

Two bears, especially male bears, who were fighting over food or potential mates.0896

They might look like they are about to kill each other.0902

But typically, it would not lead to death.0904

It is possible for them to get a little harmed or injured. Eventually, what is usually going to happen is one of them is going to go away.0906

It is going to be the defeated one and the other one is the winner, get access to the food or potential mates.0912

That agonistic behavior has benefits to the one that succeeds.0919

Dominance hierarchies, top rated animal has access to resources above all others, like a pecking order with hens.0923

With hens, with chickens, you will have females where there is the one top female.0935

She will literally peck at the lower females, if they try to challenge her and get in the way,0941

and that she wants access to the roosters exclusively.0946

There is the top one, that is dominance hierarchy.0949

It is a competitive behavior where she has dominance over the others.0954

There are also examples where there is the α male, that is their dominance hierarchy.0959

In terms of one α male having exclusive rights to a harem, to a bunch of females.0964

Eventually, another male will challenge him and possibly win, and become the new α male and have access to those females.0970

There is also territorial behavior that attempts to control an area from other animals of the same species.0978

You can see this with primates and birds, especially there will be a group of primates in the forest or jungle that have their own little area.0983

If others come close, they will start shouting, they will start fighting, it could actually result in one group killing the others.0991

It is that serious, in terms of maintaining a territory, this is their space, this is their food.1000

That behavior is meant to increase their survival rate.1005

Not just chimps, with birds, birds have been observed actually pecking each other and harm each other over a territory.1009

They are the same species, they are just two different populations occupying slightly different territories.1018

More types of behavior, foraging behaviors, this is finding and eating food.1027

Individuals who spend the least amount of energy in foraging are generally favored.1030

Here is where it comes down to, the cost of you hunting for the food and trying to find the food,1037

and weighing that with the actual energy you get.1043

If it takes too long for you to find food, the method that particular animal is using is not going to be successful.1046

It is this cost versus benefit kind of thing.1053

Individuals who are going to be successful, they will use the least amount of energy as they can, to get the most amount of resources,1059

in terms of them finding food whether it is berries or ants, or leaves, whatever it might be, it could be fruits.1065

Migratory behaviors, the move, the migration increases chance of survival in various species.1073

Let us take birds, wildebeests do it.1080

Here is a wildebeests found in Africa, but let us talk about birds.1083

It is very common for birds in North America during the winter to fly south. Why is that?1087

The North America winter can be kind of harsh for those birds.1093

In terms of the amount of food available here during the winter, that is not abundant.1096

When they fly south as a group, they go to an area where it is not winter.1100

They are going to an area where it is actually very nice, in terms of the weather and amount of food available.1104

And then, once that warmer period is ending down there,1110

they will fly back to where it is more springtime, summertime, in North America.1113

They will have plenty of food and they will breed during that period.1119

How do they actually know where to go?1124

There are innate signals that guide those populations.1127

There are other theories that birds are sensitive to the magnetic pole that the earth has,1129

the magnetic field that we do not sense within our heads.1135

We have machinery that can definitely measure it.1140

But birds, they may actually have a sense of magnetic fields and that guides them to specific spot.1142

They may also pay attention to stars, it is hard to tell.1150

Biological rhythms, these are cycles cued by environmental changes.1154

These rhythms are rooted in our DNA but cues in the environment are signaling different patterns to occur with day versus night, usually.1158

We are talking about circadian rhythms.1167

Circadian rhythms, you can find in almost any organism.1170

It is reactions to light versus dark, over and over.1173

Animals who are nocturnal, who are awake at night,1178

they are going to have a different kind of circadian rhythm pattern than animals like us, we are diurnal, during the day.1181

If an animal is diurnal, awake during the day and sleep at night, when light is hitting us,1186

when we actually can notice light, there is a wake period that occurs.1196

When the sun goes down, we are more likely to start falling asleep or being sleepy.1200

There have been studies where they take an animal out of the environment where they get 12 hours of lights and 12 hours of dark.1205

They start making it 24 hours are dark or altering it in some other way.1212

Eventually, after few days, their sleep pattern just starts getting more radical and not consistent.1216

Because, their body is used to seeing light versus day, and cueing these circadian rhythms.1222

That is important in terms of the animal being successful finding food,1227

getting rest when it is supposed to, and waking up and tackling the day again, or the night again, if it is nocturnal.1232

Communication behaviors, pheromones is one way that animals can communicate with each other.1239

If it has to do with success of the species and making offspring, that is going to be something that is retained and favored overtime.1244

Pheromones are airborne chemicals usually associated with relaying messages between the sexes,1251

males and females, so that they can get together and reproduce.1258

There are pheromones in humans that are probably impacting us.1261

We are just not aware of them consciously, but humans definitely secrete pheromones.1265

In animals, we definitely study them a lot.1272

With moths, here is a male moth, look at this.1276

Look at this antennae, they are quite branched.1283

They look like little feathers coming out of its head.1287

This male moth, once it actually has emerged from its cocoon, in its adult form, its mission is to find a female and make babies.1289

It waits for the pheromones, these pheromones, these chemical secreted from the female could come from miles away.1298

All it takes is a few little molecules hitting these filaments.1304

These filaments have a lot of surface area, just waiting for those chemicals to be noticed.1308

They fly towards that chemical signature, towards that pheromone.1313

That is how they are able to get the female and mate.1317

That is definitely an important thing for them, in terms of communication behavior.1319

Deer will leave some secretions like they will rub a gland against a tree.1324

A male do it and signal the females that I’m here, and signal other males like this is my area, I’m going to find a mate here.1330

Auditory communication, it can be hoops, howls, barks, chirps, etc.1338

There are a lot of calls that animals will make.1342

It could sometimes be about mating.1344

There are mating calls, very common with birds to do that.1347

It is common with primates too.1352

Lots of different animals do mating calls.1355

Sometimes, it is a warning about predators.1358

When it comes to meerkats, they will make a call to warn the rest of their troop that there is something overhead that can eat us.1361

Sometimes, it is just about territory, like with howling monkeys.1372

They make these crazy loud howls that can go for a couple miles, in terms of being able to hear them.1376

They are telling the others in the jungle or in the forest that this is our territory, stay away.1383

You know what, language, that is how language started with us, just calls and signals, vocalizations that have differences.1388

Warning signals versus vocalizations that are about like, I care for you, we are friends, let us groom each other.1398

There are very simple things that would have happened millions of years ago in our ancestors that led to a more evolved language,1406

in terms of the etymology in us having words, that mean more complicated thoughts.1414

Courting and nurturing behaviors, courting behaviors is like mooing, it is about getting a mate and making babies.1423

It is for attracting mates.1430

A visual display is something you see a lot with birds.1432

This is actually one of the many species of birds of paradise, found usually in tropical areas.1435

This is the male, in this particular painting.1447

This male has a quite elaborate feather display.1452

The female, not nearly as exciting looking but that is okay, she does not need to look exciting.1456

The males desire her more than anything, and she is the choosy one.1460

It happens with peacocks as well.1464

By the way, peacocks and peahens are very different.1467

Peacocks male, peahens female.1474

Together they are called peafowl or peabirds.1478

The male peacocks, like with birds of paradise, the pressure is on them with those feathers1482

and that display to try to catch the other female and she is the choosy one, in terms of choosing a mate.1486

Sometimes combat is a way that they court or mate, like with rams, they are bashing their horns together.1492

One of them is going to be dominant, one of them is going to win.1502

Females will be like, you are the winner.1504

Song, with birds it is very common for them to have pressure to make a unique song, a complicated song that they invent.1508

They have been exposed in their environment, to certain songs that they heard, before they will able to mate.1518

Once they are old enough to mate and they are expected to win a female,1525

male songbirds will come up with actually unique songs, based on what they have heard.1530

The more complicated, the more variation, probably the more it is going to catch the ear of the female.1536

Dancing, the blue footed booby of the Galapagos. It has this bright blue feet and it does a dance and displays its feet.1542

The female likes it, they will choose him.1560

Nurturing behaviors, parents are providing care to their offspring.1563

If they are nurturing them, it does take a lot of energy but it is worth the cost of that energy.1566

It is about ensuring that their offspring is going to be more successful.1571

It involves providing food to their babies, protection from predators,1575

from even other animals of the same species, skills too, for survival.1580

When it comes to primates, they definitely have the best examples of long-term care.1586

Actually, baby orangutans will spend years with their mother.1592

They have been known to nourish their young for up to two years.1596

They spend several more years tagging along with mom until1599

they are ready to go out on their own in the forest, and make their own family.1603

Cooperative behaviors, these are behaviors that actually a population of organisms within a community will do1609

to ensure survival or benefit to others, rather than themselves.1616

It benefits all the members in the group in the long run, but sometimes you are going to end up in self sacrifice.1622

Here is an example, altruism, altruistic behavior is a cooperative behavior that benefits the other with a cost to itself.1628

An example is naked mole rats or meerkat. With naked mole rats, there is actually examples of non mating individuals.1637

There are individuals in this population, you can see they are huddled together here.1646

This is probably an exhibit at some kind of museum or animal park, that is why we have this nice view here.1650

You will have animals here within the naked mole rat population that are not breeding with the queen mole rat.1657

But they help care for the babies, they help ensure survival of the population even though they are not directly tied,1668

they are not directly the offspring of the individual.1678

It is all about ensuring success of the population, in general.1681

The theory there is kin selection.1685

If the animal that you are caring for is your kin, meaning related to you in some way, sharing similar genetics.1688

Maybe, they are distant cousin in this animal population.1694

But, preserving some of your genes in the long run is beneficial because the mission for animals,1697

even though they may not cognitively realize this, they want to pass on their genes.1705

It sounds selfish but that is all about contributing biologically to the next generation.1711

Even if they may suffer or may die in the process of doing something,1717

kin selection is all about ensuring that some of your genes still keep going on.1722

At least organisms related to you, somewhat closely, will be successful.1728

The same goes for meerkats, meerkats usually they are in the Kalahari Desert.1733

They will have what is called a sentry, it is kind of like a look out.1739

That is what this meerkat is doing, it is looking at up above because there are airborne predators,1748

eagles and such, that will want to fly down and pick off a meerkat for lunch.1757

They have one that is on the lookout for the rest.1761

If they notice one, they are going to give a call and the signals like go under ground1765

because they have this awesome burrowing community underneath.1769

Sometimes, in the process of this making that call and those signals,1772

it can be vulnerable to the actual bird coming down and eating it.1777

In the process of potentially sacrificing itself, it is ensuring that a lot of its buddy meerkats and its related meerkats survive.1780

That is definitely a cooperative behavior that falls under altruism.1790

Thank you for watching