The Science Of Behaviour: History, Scope And Terminology

Animal Behaviour

1. What do you understand by animal behaviour? Throw light on the siginificance of the study of animal behaviour.

Behaviour is the sum total of the ways in which an organism reacts to its environment. It is part of its relationship to its enviroment. It can be defined as a responce of an organism in the form of motor activity patterns or of a group of organisms to a simulus or stimuli. The stimulus may be external (originating outside the body of an organism) or internal (arising within the organism). It means ‘behaviour includes all those processes by which an animal sense changes in the external world and internal state of their bodies and responses to change perceived.’

Signifacance of the Study of Behaviour

1. Behaviour is of immense practical value to the taxonomist, because behaviour may give significant evidence about evolutionary relationship in group in which morphological evidence is not convincing.

Example: Among waterfowls, courtship behaviour is complex and precise, and is an evidence for classification.

2. To the game biologists, knowledge of animal behaviour is a basic necessity for intellignt management.

Example: The quail, which forms coneys of family groups in the fields, must be managed in different way from the ruffed grouse, which leads a more solitary life in the forest.

3. The psychologist may learn from the behaviour of animals something about the learning process which will be helpful in human education.

4. The physiologist may study the neural patterns associated with different kinds of behaviour.

History Of Animal Behaviour

2. Discuss history of animal behaviour.

Study of animal behaviour is as old as prehistoric man, as is evident in his old cave paintings. Great Greek philosopher Aristotle (372 BC) wrote an excellent description of animal behaviour in his book ‘Historia Animallium’ (i.e. the Animal History). He noticed that animals also possess insight and exhibit love for families and social interactios. William Hervey studied breeding, nestling and incubating behaviour in birds. Behavioural science or Ethology developed from the work of A. Vesalius (1543) when he described structure of human brain. This provided the insights of the nervous system for the first time.

Scientific studies of animal behaviour are traced back to eighteenth centure when naturalists, Gilbert White (1720-1793) and Charles Leroy (1723-1789) worked on many aspects of behaviour in swallows. Herbert Spencer (1855) discussed the mental continutity in the psycholgy of lower animals to that of higher animals. However, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is considered to be the pioneer in the field of animal behaviour. His contribution to the science of animal behaviour was three fold:

1. Darwin’s theory of natural selection could be used to interpret animal behaviour in evolutionary context.

2. His view an instinctive behaviour was more reasonable and helped in the development of theories of animal behaviour in future.

3. His observations on some human behaviour patterns associated with emotions support of the concept that ‘man once existed in a lower and animal-like condition.’

Darwin emphasized that the phylogeny of behavioural developement is subjected to the same laws as that of morphological changes and also all the instinctive motor sequences have emerged gradually from small and useful modifications. Later, Darwin’s assumptions got support from Mendel’s laws.

Herbert Spencer (1855) discussed mental continuity in the psychology of lower animals to that of higher animals in his book ‘Principles of Psychology’ and supported theory of inheritance of acquired characters of Lamarck. This was further expanded in 1896 from reflex behaviour to free will or choice behaviour. In 1882, John Ramanes wrote a book on ‘Animal Intellignce’ which is still a classical book on animal behaviour. In 1884, he published a paper on ‘Mental Evolution in Man’, where he explained about the feeling of animals or human beings in a particular situation, such as in the state of fear or danger.

Later, Lloyd Morgan (1894) and John Watson (1913) worked extensively on animal behaviour. Oskar Heinroth (1871-1945) devoted his life studying behaviour in waterfowls and wrote a book ‘Ethology of Anatida’. Researches from 1890 to 1910 stuides the mechanism of internal control of behaviour. These provided basis for establishing new branches, like ethology, neurobiology and comparative psychology. Later, Konrad Lorenz, Nikolass Tinbergen and Karl Von Frisch contributed to the modern field of animal behaviour and shared a Nobel Prize in 1972-73 for their remarkable contribution in the field of Animal Behaviour and established this as a new field of science. Konard Lorenz is regarded as the founder of Ethology. He developed theory of imprinting, childhood learning during critical period.

Maier and Schmeirl (1935) published a book on ‘Principles of Animal Psychology and Ethology’. Schmeirla studies maze-learning behaviour in ants and rats. Charles Whitman, and Oskar and Heinroth are said to be the founders of modern discipline of Ethology.

Whiteman studied reproductive behaviour of closely related speices of pigeons and Hienroth carried out research on the duck behaviour. Nikolass Tinbergen (1951) published his book ‘The study of Instinct’ and described that under identical circumstances and in the same age groups or sexes animals shows a stereotyped behaviour. This led Lorenz to formulate the concept of ‘fixed action pattern’ FAP). This was further elaborated by Schleidt (1974). Later, in 1968 and 1977 Barlow developed the concept of model action pattern (MAP) about stereotype behaviour.

Beach (1955) reviewed instinct or innate concept in greater details. Cassidy (1979) wrote a review on the concept of instinct and in 1981, Lorenz described the concept of innate releasing mechanism (IRM) and postulated an action specific energy (ASE) to build up motivation for particular behaviour. According to Dewesbury (1978), the term FAP cannot be now used in effective scientific communication.

Credit:- Dr. Veer Bala Rastogi (KedarNathRamNath)

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