Ethology and Animals

Topics: Ethology, Instinct, Behavior Pages: 6 (2079 words) Published: January 21, 2006
Ethology: A Study in Animal Behavior and the
Complexity of Their Action

A Study in Animal Behavior
Hierarchy Among Animal Species
Ethology, the study of animal behavior is still a new frontier for scientists (Freedman, 1970). Ethology, a combination of evolution, ecology, physiology, genetics and psychology, has just come about within the last two decades (Raven, 1999). Animals are a vital component in the history of the world. For instance, the Bible mentions some 100 kinds of animals. In this modern age some Hindus still worship snakes and bulls as incarnations of divine beings (Carmichael, 1972). Humans have been intrigued for years at how the most basic creatures can do the most complex tasks, such as finding a home, weaving a web or sing a song with little or no instruction (Encarta, 2000). Animal behavior, one of the most important properties of animal life, is the part of a particular organism and it's environment. The role of animal behavior plays a critical role in biological adaptations. Animal behavior also gives some of the first warning signs of environmental disruption (Snowdon, 2001).

The human body and other mammals share many similarities, such as anatomical structure, from cells to vital organs. Human refusal to accept their psychological kinship to animals is blamed on our inadequate understanding of animal behavior (Carmichael, 1972). The methodology used to study animal behavior has had a significant impact in the psychology world (Snowdon, 2001). In many ways humans are still much more advanced and sophisticated than animals but the comparison of humans to animals still remains controversial (Slater, 1987). Aggressive Behavior

A decent portion of animal behavior concerns the resolution of conflicts (Slater, 1987). Peace will occur in groups of animals will remain as long as a subordinate stays submissive. A submissive animal will often groom a dominant animal, as a soothing action and a way to build trust. This is also evident in the petting of domestic animals by their owners (Benyus, 1998). Cats change their posture as a show of submission to de-escalate the confrontation (Slater, 1987). Jamaican anoles extend their bright-orange dewlap to demonstrate their aggression (Miller, 2000).

Animals "play" to establish dominance between animals. It also helps create alliances that will be of use in future instances. There are six ways that animals avoid conflict. They keep their distance from other group members. They make excuses for being close, such as greeting, playing or grooming. Animals avoid causing extreme arousal or frustration. They make displays of submission. Animals behave predictably; not arousing fear or aggression. They divert their attack elsewhere by taking out frustrations on an inanimate object instead of an equally dominant member of the group. "For all practical purposes, animals are diplomats, not warriors. They will go to great lengths to avoid a physical confrontation, and acts of extreme or fatal violence are rare" (Benyus, 1998). Sexual Behavior

Sexual Behavior was being researched as early as 1913, by a German biologist, Johann Regen. Regen studied the chirps of a male European field cricket. He found, in conclusion that female crickets respond only to the chirps and trills of males of their own species (Alexander, 1972). Courtship behavior describes the behavioral interactions before and after mating between males and females. In most cases the male is the more active partner in the act of courtship and females tend to be more cautious about who they mate with (Slater, 1987). Mammals are more likely than birds to practice promiscuity or polygamy (Crook, 1972). Cats are particularly violent in the acts of courtship. Actually, modern courtship is becoming non-existent in some species, with commercial breeding and an increased use of artificial insemination (Holt, 2001). First, the male lion makes his intentions known with a "mating...

References: A discussion on the debate, "nurture vs. nature" and instinctive behavior. Retrieved
March 12, 2003, from
Benyus, Janine M. (1998). The Secret Language and Remarkable Behavior of Animals. New
York, New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.
Freedman, R., & Morris, J.E. (1970). Animal Instincts.
Johnson, George B
Miller, Kenneth R., Ph.D. & Levine, Joseph, Ph.D. (2000). Animal Behavior. Upper Saddle
River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc..
Milne, Lorus and Margery. (1982) . A Time to be Born: An Almanac of Animal Courtship &
National Geographic Society. (1972) . The Marvels of Animal Behavior.
Slater, Professor Peter JB
Vandenbergh, John G. (1983) . Pheromones and Reproduction in Mammals. (United Kingdom
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