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•  Ethology is the study of animal behaviour in natural conditions

Ethology is the scientific study of animal behaviour under natural conditions (i.e. observational not experimental)

  • As it is a biological perspective, behaviour is considered to be an evolutionary adaptive trait developed via natural selection

The modern field of ethology includes a number of well-known investigations into animal behaviour:

  • Migratory patterns in birds (such as blackcaps)
  • Reciprical altruism in animal species (such as vampire bats)
  • Breeding and courtship strategies in a number of different animals

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•  Natural selection can change the frequency of observed animal behaviour

•  Behaviour that increases the chances of survival and reproduction become more prevalent in a population

Natural selection is a mechanism of evolution by which the frequency of inherited traits change as a result of external agents

  • Characteristics which promote survival and reproduction (i.e. beneficial alleles) become more prevalent in a population

Any behaviour that has a genetic basis (i.e. innate) and confers reproductive success will become more common

  • Learned behaviours may also evolve via natural selection if the capacity for learning has a genetic basis (e.g. language)

Natural selection will promote “optimal” behaviours for the given set of environmental conditions in which the organism lives

  • As these external conditions change, the frequency of certain behavioural responses will vary accordingly

An example of the evolution of behaviour via natural selection can be demonstrated by the feeding habits of fledgling birds

  • Within a nest, baby birds (chicks) will gape and chirp as fledglings in order to be fed by their parents
  • The chicks that chirp louder and gape more obviously are more likely to receive parental attention and be fed more
  • These chicks are more likely to survive and pass their alleles for chirping and gaping on to their offspring
  • Over many generations, the frequency of excessively overt chirping and gaping behaviours has increased

Gaping Chicks

gaping chicks

Helpful Hint:  Do NOT google image search ‘gaping chicks’ on a school computer