- Why carbon is everywhere
- Water - Liquid awesome
- Biological molecules - You are what you eat
- Eukaryopolis - The city of animal cells
- In da club - Membranes & transport
- Plant cells
- ATP & respiration
- DNA, hot pockets, & the longest word ever
- Mitosis: Splitting up is complicated
- Meiosis: Where the sex starts
- Natural Selection
- Speciation: Of ligers & men
- Animal development: We're just tubes
- Evolutionary development: Chicken teeth
- Population genetics: When Darwin met Mendel
- Taxonomy: Life's filing system
- Evolution: It's a Thing
- Comparative anatomy: What makes us animals
- Simple animals: Sponges, jellies, & octopuses
- Complex animals: Annelids & arthropods
- Animal behavior
- The nervous system
- Circulatory & respiratory systems
- The digestive system
- The excretory system: From your heart to the toilet
- The skeletal system: It's ALIVE!
- Big Guns: The Muscular System
- Your immune system: Natural born killer
- Great glands - Your endocrine system
- The reproductive system: How gonads go
- Old & Odd: Archaea, Bacteria & Protists
- The sex lives of nonvascular plants
- Vascular plants = Winning!
- The plants & the bees: Plant reproduction
- Fungi: Death Becomes Them
- Ecology - Rules for living on earth
Hank and his cat Cameo help teach us about animal behavior and how we can discover why animals do the things they do. Created by EcoGeek.
Want to join the conversation?
- wound'nt the fish notice the turtles body?(13 votes)
- The shell is camouflage, As you can see in the picture shown, the turtle is a dark brown, which would blend into it's habitat. Also, worms tend to stay near dirt, so the fish may believe the rest of the turtle is just a mound of mud.(5 votes)
- Why do lemmings throw themselves off cliffs? It seems like nature wouldn't really favor this sort of behavior...(6 votes)
- That is a myth that was, in part, popularized by some faked "documentaries". Lemmings do not commit mass suicide.
What does happen is that when an area becomes overpopulated with lemmings, a portion of them will engage in mass migration (not suicide). Sometimes they will fling themselves into a body of water to swim to another location. And, as with any animal migration, a number of them don't survive the trip. But, it is just succumbing to the difficulties of migration, especially swimming across a body of water, it is not a mass suicide.(23 votes)
- Will Natural Selection eventually create a super-species? One that's practically invincible? If so, how many years will it take?(5 votes)
- No. Natural selection does not produce super-organisms. It produces species that are adequately adapted to their environment. There is no reproductive advantage to excessive abilities and so there can be no selection pressure to make super organisms.(5 votes)
- I find it so strange how some people say that animals don't experience emotion when there's so much evidence that they do. Altruism in this video clearly shows that the animal is happy when it's clan member is happy. Simple as that. I guess. But, do the animals realize what they are doing from emotion, or do they do it because of survival habits they form?(4 votes)
- I think the answer to your question is dependent on what kind of animal you are talking about. As humans we are largely driven by emotion but we are also intelligent and self aware enough to override that emotional instinct and/or analyse and understand why it is happening. A cat on the other hand does not appreciate why it is important to perform certain behaviours or feel certain emotions. One can assume a cat hunts, not just because it needs to eat, but because it finds the action enjoyable. This would explain why cat often hunt and kill small animals but don't eat them or why they can be so playful. While the instinct the stalk and pounce prey is hardwired we can assume that the thing that drives the cat to continue doing this behaviour is the reward of feeling positive emotions. In this case I don't think the cat is aware of its motivation, only that repeating the behaviour will result in more good things.(3 votes)
- Can cats or dogs understand us ?(4 votes)
- Depends on what you mean by "understand." If you've ever had a cat or dog, especially a dog, you'll know that they can sense your emotions to some degree, by your body actions or tone of voice. You've probably heard that dogs can even smell fear. But obviously, you can't have a conversation with your cat/dog.(1 vote)
- How do plants get a mate(3 votes)
- Plants have both 'male' and 'female' parts that can produce new plants. Pollinators, when attracted to flowers or nectar, or whatever else the plant has to offer, transfers pollen.(8 votes)
- Is it possible to make a Mutant Animals(2 votes)
- Its important to note that changes in a species is caused by mutations, so in a sense, every animal is a mutant animal. An elephant is just a mutated rodent-like early mammal.(3 votes)
- I didn't know that snapping turtles have tongues. That's pretty cool! How do fish know the color of the worm? Do fish really don't know that the worm is really a tongue from a mouth?(2 votes)
- Great questions!
There seems to be much difference of opinion on whether fish are colorblind. If they can see color, then they would say "oh there's a nice pink worm, I'll go eat it." And if they knew it was a tongue, would they try to eat it? If you were a fish, would you try eating someone else's tongue? I wouldn't want to go sticking my head in someone else's mouth, if I was a small edible creature.
Rather than responding to the color, the fish may respond to the movement and not really care what it looks like. I have a pet toad, who is so focused on "if it wiggles, it's dinner" that he tries to eat my fingers. He is a small toad, and I have large hands. He doesn't care that my fingers are too big to eat, he just cares that they are moving, and goes after them. (Fortunately, he doesn't have any teeth...) Perhaps the fish respond similarly. It does help, in my experience, if the wiggly thing wiggles in the "correct" way, too.
Thanks for asking these questions; I really enjoyed answering them!(2 votes)
- I have Guinea pigs and, they are always making noise!! #behavior Why do some animals always make noise? What I'm asking is, how does Guinea pigs or animals like Guinea pigs learn their noises?(2 votes)
- Yay! I have a guinea pig to XD
Sounds an animal make are just another reflex. You jump when your scared, and you scream. It's just a natural reflex of the body.
So guinea pigs and other animal don't learn their sounds. It's just a bodily reflex that comes naturally.(1 vote)
- So of what Ive learned thus far in the behavior of animals and evolution, wouldn't it be easy to just say the vampire bats are safer in larger groups and there for look after others in the group for a higher survival rate? Or do we have evidence that this is likely not the case? :)(2 votes)
- You are correct. The survival rate is higher for vampire bats once they live in society and take care of each other.(1 vote)
- Behavior is action in response to a stimulus. My cat Cameo, is now responding to both an external stimulus. The sound of a bag of treats. And an internal stimulus, her hunger. Or at least her insatiable desire for treats. (upbeat music) Sometimes animal behavior can seem kind of far out. But if you look closely enough you can see how all behavior serves a purpose to help an animal mate, eat, avoid predators and raise young. And since behaviors can come with advantages like these, natural selection acts on them just as it acts on physical traits. Ensuring the success of animals who engage in beneficial behaviors. While weeding out those that do stupid, dangerous, or otherwise unhelpful stuff. The most beneficial behaviors are those that make an animal better at doing the only two things in the world that matter. Eating and sexing. Still that doesn't mean that all behaviors are just about looking out for number one. It turns out that some advantageous behavior is pretty selfless actually. More on that in a minute. But first, behavior is really just a product of a pair of factors. Morphology, or the physical structure of an animal. And physiology, or the function of that morphology. Now an animals behavior is obviously limited by what its body is capable of doing. For example, Cameo does not have opposable thumbs. So much as she would like to get into the treat bag by herself. She cannot. This limitation is strictly hereditary. No cats can open treat bags with their thumbs. Cos no cats have opposable thumbs. Though some cats do have thumbs. It's the same way that a penguin can't fly to escape a predator. Or a gazelle can't you know, reach the same leaves as a giraffe can. Similarly, behavior is constrained by an animals physiology. Like, Cameo is built for chasing down little critters and eating meat. Not beds of lettuce. This is because of her physiology. Everything from her teeth, to her digestive system are geared for eating meat. And if she like pounced on and ate every blade of grass she came across, let's just say that I would not want to be in charge of that litter box. Now the traits that make up an animals morphology and physiology are often heritable. So we generally talk about selection acting on those traits. So as natural selection hones these traits, it's really selecting their associative behaviors. It's the use of the trait using wings and feathers to escape predators. Or using a long neck to reach leaves, that provides the evolutionary advantage. So that doesn't mean that all behavior is coded in an animals genes. Some behaviors are learned. And even for animals that learn how to do things, natural selection has favored brain structures that are capable of learning. So one way or another most behaviors have some genetic underpinning. And we call those behaviors adaptive. Problem is, it's not always obvious what the evolutionary advantages are for some of the nutty things animals do. Like, why does a snapping turtle always stick out its tongue? How does a tiny Siberian hamster find its mate miles across the unforgiving tundra? Why does a Bowerbird collect piles of garbage? To answer questions like those we have to figure out one, what stimulus causes these behaviors. And two, what functions the behaviors serve. To do this, I'm gonna need the help of one of the first animal behavior scientists ever, or ethologists, Niko Tinbergen. Tinbergen developed a set of four questions aimed at understanding animal behavior. The questions focused on how a behavior occurs, and why natural selection has favored this particular behavior. Determining how a behavior occurs actually involves two questions. One, what stimulus causes it? And two, what does the animal's body do in response to that stimulus? These are the causes that are closest to the specific behavior that we're looking at. So their called the proximate causes. In the case of the male Siberian hamster, the stimulus is a delicious smelling pheromone that the sexy female hamster releases when she's ready to mate. The male hamster's response, of course, is to scuttle, surprisingly quickly over several miles if necessary to find and mate with her. So, the proximate cause of this behavior was that the girl hamster signaled that she was ready to knock boots. And the male ran like crazy to get to the boot knockin'. Asking the more complex question of why natural selection has favored this behavior requires asking two more questions. One, what about this behavior helps this animal survive? And or reproduce. And two, what is the evolutionary history of this behavior? These, as you can tell, are bigger picture questions. And they show us the ultimate causes of the behavior. The answer to the first question, of course, is that the ability of a male hamster to detect and respond to the pheromones of an ovulating female is directly linked to his reproductive success. As for the second question, you can also see that male hamsters with superior pheromone detectors will be able to find females more successfully than other male hamsters. And thereby produce more offspring. So, natural selection has honed this particular physical ability and behavior over generations of hamsters. So, who would have thought to ask these questions in the first place? And, where's my chair? (bouncy piano music) Niko Tinbergen was one third of a trifecta of revolutionary Ethologists in the twentieth century. Along with Austrians, Karl Von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz. He provided a foundation for studying animal behavior. And applied these ideas to the study of specific behaviors. And for that, all three share the Nobel Prize in 1973. You may have seen the famous photos of young Greylag geese following obediently in line behind a man. That, was Lorenz. And his experiments first conducted in the 1930's, introduced the world to imprinting. The formation of social bonds in infant animals. And the behavior that includes both learned, and innate components. When he observed newly hatched ducklings and geese, he discovered that water fowl in particular had no innate recognition of their mothers. In the case of Greylag geese, he found the imprinting stimulus to be any nearby object moving away from the young. So, when incubator hatched goslings spent their first hours with Lorenz, not only did they follow him but they showed no recognition of their real mother or other adult in their species. Unfortunately, Lorenz was also a member of the Nazi party from 1938 to 1943. And in response to some of his studies on degenerative features that arose in hybrid geese. Lorenz warned that it took only a small amount of tainted blood to have an influence on a pure blooded race. Unsurprisingly, Nazi party leaders worked quick to draw some insane conclusions from Lorenz's behavioral studies. And the cause of what they called, race hygiene. Lorenz never denied his Nazi affiliation, but spent years trying to distance himself from the party, and apologizing for getting caught up in that evil. Now how exactly does natural selection act on behavior out there in the world? That's where we turn to those two types of behavior that are the only things in the world that matter. Eating and sex having. Behavior associated with finding and eating food is known as foraging. Which you've heard of. And natural selection can act on behaviors that allow animals to exploit food sources while using the least amount of energy possible. This sweet spot is known as the optimal foraging model. And the Alligator snapping turtle has optimal foraging all figured out. Rather than running around hunting down it's prey, it simply sits in the water, and food comes to him. See the Alligator snapping turtle has a long pink tongue, divided into two segments making it look like a tasty worm to a passing fish. In response to the stimulus of a passing fish, it sticks out it's tongue and wiggles it. Natural selection has over many generations acted not only on turtles with pinker and more wiggly tongues to catch more fish. It's also acted on those that best know how and when to wiggle those tongues to get the most food. So it's selecting both the physical trait, and the behavior that best exploits it. And what could be sexier than a turtles wiggly tongue dance? Well, how about sex. As we saw with our friend the horny Siberian hamster. Some behaviors and their associated physical features are adapted to allow an animal to reproduce more simply by being better at finding mates. But many times animals of the same species live close together, or in groups. And determining who in what group gets to mate, creates some interesting behaviors and features. This is what sexual selection is all about. Often males of a species will find and defend the desirable habitat to raise young in. And females will choose a male based on their territory. But what about those species, and there are many of them, where the female picks a male not because of that but because of how he dances. Or even weirder, how much junk he's collected. Take the male Bowerbird. He builds an elaborate hut, or bower, out of twigs and bits of grass. And then spends an enormous amount of time collecting stuff. Sometimes piles of berries. And sometimes piles of pretty blue, plastic crap. Ethologists believed that he's collecting the stuff to attract the female to check out his elaborate house. Once the female's been enticed to take closer look. The male starts to sing songs and dance around. Often mimicking other species, inside of his little house for her. Females will inspect a number of these bowers before choosing who to mate with. Now doing more complex dances, and having more blue objects in your bower scores bigger with females. And Ethologists have shown that a higher level of problem solving, or intelligence, in males correlates to both of these activities. So, yeah. It took some brawn to build that bower and collect all that junk. But chicks also dig nerds who can learn dances. So the Bowerbird's brain is evolving in response to sexual selection by females. This intelligence, likely also translates into other helpful behaviors like avoiding predators. So thanks to the evolution of behavior, we're really good taking care of our nutritional and sexual needs. But what's confused scientists for a long time is why animals often look after others' needs. For instance, Vampire bats in South America will literally regurgitate blood into the mouths of members of its clan who didn't get a meal that night. How do you explain animals who act altruistically like that? We actually did a whole slide show episode on this very subject. But basically, we can thank British scientist, William Hamilton, for coming up with an equation to explain how natural selection can simultaneously make animals fit, and allow for the evolution of altruism. Hamilton found that the evolution of altruism was best understood at the level of larger communities. Especially extended animal families. Basically, altruism can evolve if the benefit of a behavior is greater than its cost on an individual because it helped the individual's relatives enough to make it worth it. Hamilton called this inclusive fitness. Expanding Darwin's definition of fitness. Just basically how many babies somebody's making. To include the offspring of relatives. Now I guess the only question left is if I forget to feed you two, who's gonna regurgitate blood into the other ones mouth? Yeah there's probably a reason that only happens with bats. (cat meows)