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Flashcards in Ethology Deck (78)

What three ethologists shared the Nobel prize in 1973?

Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen, and Karl von Frisch


Ethology is the study of _________ behaviors.



What did Charles Darwin believe was instrumental to evolution?

natural selection


Who was the founder of ethology research?

Konrad Lorenz


What subjects within ethology is Konrad Lorenz known for?

  • animal aggression
  • imprinting
  • releasing stimuli
  • fixed action patterns


Why did Konrad Lorenz believe animal aggression was innate?

He believed, based on natural selection, that aggression in animals ensured that the strongest in a species survived, passing on their genes to future generations, and was therefore instinctual.


Who do baby birds think is their mommy?

Konrad Lorenz found that baby birds (and some other species) form an attachment to the first moving object they see after birth. This is called imprinting.


According to Konrad Lorenz (and further supported by the research of Nikolaas Tinbergen), what triggered fixed action patterns?

releasing stimuli (or sign stimuli or simply releasers)


What is a fixed action pattern?

It is a chain of behaviors or events within a species brought on by a releasing stimuli.


What are the four characteristics of fixed action patterns?

  1. uniformity
  2. performed by most of a species
  3. more complex than reflexes
  4. unstoppable once they have started


Following Konrad Lorenz's earlier reseach, what did Nikolaas Tinbergen's research focus on?

releasing stimuli

Tinbergen made models and used them in natural settings to observe the behaviors of animals.


Briefly explain Tinbergen's experiment with stickelback fish and releasing stimuli.

Male stickleback fish attack each other in the spring when their bellies become red. To test that the belly color was the releasing stimulus, Tinbergen made realistic stickleback models with no red bellies and crude models with red bellies. Supporting his hypothesis, the fish attacked the red-bellied models.


What did Tinbergen find during his research with herring gull chicks?

Herring gull chicks pecked at their parents' red-tipped bills to get food. Crude models showed the releasing stimulus to be the color red on the bill, and pecking intensity correlated with greater contrast between the bill and the red tip.


What is a supernormal sign stimulus?

It is an artificial releasing stimulus whose effect is greater than the naturally occurring releasing stimulus.


Who discovered that honeybees communicate through dance?

Karl von Frisch


Who coined the term "fight or flight"?

Walter Cannon


What is the fight or flight response?

It is a series of physiological changes that provides an animal with the tools necessary to flee from or fight a threat.

Examples might include changes in respiration, blood flow, pupil dilation, and heart rate.


After the fight or flight response, what happens to the body, according to Walter Cannon?

The body self-regulates to return to homeostasis.


What is the term for a molecular unit of heredity?


Genes are made of DNA and RNA molecules and are carried in chromosomes


How many chromosomes are in the nucleus of a human cell?

23 pairs


What are gametes and how do they differ from other human cells?

In humans, gametes are the sperm and ovum.

While human cells have 23 pairs of chomosomes (making them diploids), gametes only have 23 single chromosomes (making them haploids).


Are zygotes haploids or diploids? Why?


When the gametes from parents meet in the fertilized egg cell, the 23 single chromosomes become paired, making the zygote a diploid.


What is a genotype?

the entirety of a genetic cell's makeup

The genotype includes both dominant and recessive genes


What is an allele?

It is any particular version of a gene, including possible variations for each dominant and recessive gene (dominant-dominant, dominant-recessive, or recessive-recessive).


The sum of your physical characteristics is also known as what?

your phenotype


What idea is central to the theory of evolution?

natural selection


What is natural selection?

It is the idea that organisms or species are more likely to survive if they adapt to fit their environment.


What does genetic drift refer to?

It refers to the genotypic pruning or flourishing within a population through generations.


What is reproduction and the furthering of genes called in terms of evolution?



Organisms or animals that are concerned with furthering the entire species rather than just themselves are favoring what?

inclusive fitness


The desire to protect your own genes (and thus, the genes of your family) is known as what?

kin selection

Inclusive fitness is born of kin selection.


What are characteristics of innate or instinctual behaviors?

  • not reliant on learning or experience
  • relatively consistent throughout the species, even initially
  • exist in all members of a species


How does protecting one's kin not constitute altruism?

While protecting a family member is somewhat altruistic, true altruism does not generate a direct benefit for the individual. Protecting non-kin would be altruistic because it does not ensure the safety of one's own genes.


What is the evolutionary purpose of a biological clock?

Biological clocks keep an organism in step with its environment.


What time period do circadian rhythms revolve around?

one day (24 hour) cycles


What behaviors must occur to attract a member of the same species and mate?



When a bird is unsure whether to attack a predator or flee, it will sometimes peck at the grass. Why?

The bird is exhibiting displacement behaviors, which are illogical and stem from different instincts contradicting one another simultaneously.

A human example is scratching one's head while trying to decide between different options.


What is estrus?

Estrus is the period of time when a female animal is receptive to sex for mating. This is commonly referred to as being "in heat."


How has evolution discouraged inbreeding?

Many animals from the same family have similar markings, so potential suitors know to choose mates with different markings from their own.


How is mimicry evolutionarily beneficial?

Mimicry allows one species of animal to look/sound/smell like another species to protect themselves from harm.


What is instinctive drift?

When an animal forsakes conditioned responses in favor of instinctive responses.


What are pheromones?

Believed to be a form of primitive communication between animals, pheromones are sensed by another's vomeronasal organ and chemically convey certain emotions, like fear.


There are four types of reproductive isolating mechanisms, which prevent interbreeding between different (but potentially compatible) species. What are they?

  1. mechanical isolation
  2. behavioral isolation
  3. geographic isolation
  4. isolation by season


What is mechanical isolation?

Two species have reproductively incompatible genitals.


What type of isolation prevents one species from responding to the courting rituals of another species, preventing interbreeding?

behavioral isolation


How does geographic isolation prevent interbreeding?

Different species breed in different physical locations so they are unlikely to interbreed.


Different but similar species breeding at different times in the year to prevent interbreeding is called what?

isolation by season


While some behaviors are innate, psychologists and ethologists agree that there is a __________ where an organism is receptive or vulnerable to learning.

critical period (or sensitive period)

Ex: baby chicks imprinting on the first moving object they see upon birth, unable to reverse it later in life.


What is sexual dimorphism and what are a few examples?

Sexual dimorphism is the phenotypic differences between males and females of a species.


  • human females have larger breasts
  • human males are typically larger and taller than women
  • male peacocks have colorful plumage and females do not
  • in many species of fish, the female is larger than the male


Though related, how do the theories of natural selection and sexual selection differ?

Natural selection is concerned with the fight to live, to prevent death. Sexual selection is concerned with the fight to reproduce and continue the bloodline.


Choosing a stud horse to breed with a female horse to produce a strong racing horse is called what?

selective breeding


What did Karl von Frisch decode about the dance movements of bees?

  • a dance with a circular motion means food is nearby
  • a dance with a wiggling motion means food is far away
  • the length of the dance is directly related to how far away the food is
  • the intensity of the movements is related to the quality of the food


How do scouting bees navigate?

They use simple landmarks, magnetic fields, polarized light, and the position of the sun to navigate.


How does a queen bee prevent other female bees in the hive from reproducing?

She secretes a chemical to suppress their ovaries so only she lays eggs.

When a new queen bee emerges, the old queen bee leaves the hive.


In beehives, who mates with the queen?

Male bees called drones mate with the queen. Year-to-year, bees mate in the same location.


How do bees know which flowers to gather nectar from?

Bees can see honeyguides on flowers that humans can not, since they can see ultraviolet light invisible to humans.


What are different "compasses" some animals (notably birds and bees) use to navigate?

  • atmospheric pressure
  • infrasound
  • magnetic sense
  • sun compass
  • star compass
  • polarized light
  • echolocation


How is atmospheric pressure an aid to navigation?

It alerts animals (like pigeons) to changes in altitude.


What is infrasound?

Infrasound is extremely low-frequency sound, to the point that humans are unable to hear it. However, pigeons can hear infrasounds from the earth that travel greater distances than many other sounds, aiding navigation.


Pigeons and bees are believed to sense the ______ forces of the earth, which aids navigation.



How can celestial bodies like the sun and stars aid navigation?

These objects serve as landmarks for some birds and bees.


How can the sun help bees navigate on even a cloudy day?

Bees have the ability to see polarized light, which helps detect the position of the sun and help plot a path to their destination.


Describe the process of echolocation.

Some animals can emit high-frequency sounds that bounce off surrounding objects and create a sophisticated map of the area's obstructions and food.

Bats and dolphins are most commonly associated with echolocation.


Do owls use echolocation?


They use regular hearing, but their ears are asymmetrical, which allows sound entering the ears at different times to help pinpoint the location of objects.


What was Wolgang Köhler famous for?

his studies on chimpanzees and insight learning


What is insight learning?

The a-ha! moment that allows a new understanding of a situation to solve a problem.

Köhler tested insight learning with chimps to see if they would find creative solutions after seeing the whole problem, instead of just using trial and error.


What are three major topics Harry Harlow used to study with rhesus monkeys?

  1. social isolation
  2. contact comfort
  3. learning to learn


What did Harlow's studies on social isolation show about monkeys?

Monkeys raised in isolation were never socialized, so when they were around other monkeys, they did not act normally, particularly with sexual and maternal behaviors.


What did Harlow's wire monkey/cloth monkey experiment suggest about maternal attachment?

Baby monkeys could spend time with a wire "mother" who provided food or a terrycloth "mother" who did not provide anything but comfort. Baby monkeys ran to the cloth mom when scared, suggesting that comfort is imperative to attachment.


Describe Harlow's theory of "learning to learn."

As monkeys inreased their total learning experiences, they were able to learn novel things more quickly.


Briefly explain R.C. Tyron's rat experiment.

To test how behavioral differences are affected by genetics, Tryon ran rats through a maze and bred the ones that made the fewest mistakes to make "maze-bright" rats and the most mistakes to make "maze-dull" rats. He then tested the bright- and dull-bred rats to see if they made as few or as many mistakes as their parents. His reseach supported the hypothesis that genetics affect behavior.


What did Cooper and Zubek add to Tyron's rat experiment?

They raised genetically maze-bright and maze-dull rats in different environments: normal, enriched, and impoverished. They found a difference in maze performance only in the normal condition. In the enriched and impoverished conditions, the performance difference was not significant.


What are the three prongs of Edward Thorndike's instrumental learning theory?

trial, error, and accidental success


What is Thorndike's law of effect?

Stemming from the concept of instrumental learning, Thorndike posited that animals repeat successful behaviors.

He tested this with cats in puzzle boxes. While it took the cats a while in the beginning to find the escape button, they pressed it nearly immediately in later trials.


How do cross-fostering experiments help glean whether traits are due to nature or nurture?

Siblings are separated at birth and raised by different parents, then compared to see what traits persisted, suggesting heredity, and which traits differed, suggesting environment.


What was Eric Kandel's contribution to the concept of plasticity?

Kandel studied the sea slug Aplysia, and showed that learning actually changed the synapses and neural pathways of the slug, supporting the idea of neural plasticity.


What did Keller and Marion Breland find when they tried to teach a raccoon to deposit coins in a piggy bank?

They observed the raccoon treating the coins like they would crayfish, trying to remove a shell. This showed an instinctual drift, meaning the raccoon couldn't help behaving instinctually.


Ethology now mainly rests within the realm of sociobiology. Who is the most recognized sociobiologist?

E.O. Wilson

Wilson believes behavior is formed by the mingling of environment and genetics.