Zoology

How Ethology might help us



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Ethology, from the Greek word ethos,(character)and logos(knowledge) is the branch of Zoology that deals with animal instincts. It differs from the study of Animal Behavior , in that animal behaviorists generally are interested in learned behavior, while ethologists focus on innate behavior. It deals with instinctive behavior such as courtship, mating, and taking care of the young. It also studies how animals communicate with each other, and how they establish and defend their territories.



Relatively a recent science, the discipline of Ethology is considered to have arisen in the 1960s, with the work of Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen and Austrian biologist Konrad Lorenz, joint winners of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Biology. Ethologists seek to determine the cause of instinctive behavior, how such behavior has developed over millions of years and how it helps a species to survive. For each kind of animal studied, they prepare an Ethogram, a list that describes the known behavior pattern of the species. In the Ethogram, they also try to specify the conditions under which each instinctive act occurs. Ethology is a combination of laboratory science and field science, with strong ties to other disciplines, such as ecology, evolution and psychology.

There are two views as to how animals acquire their innate behavior. Animals learn their behavior during the course of ontogenetic development. Ducklings learn how to quack like a duck while within the egg. A human baby knows how to suck on the breast of the mother as soon as being born. Experiments have since shown that these behaviors are built in and not learned.

Complex behavioral patterns can be passed on through genes. A spider's orb web is built perfectly the first time a spider attempts construction, even though it has no prior experience with building webs. Female spiders construct egg sacs for their young and then perish. When the spiderlings emerge, they go on to construct webs of their own.

Modern psychology defines instinct as an impulse, which results in an action not caused by a learning process. Ethology identifies instinct as a series of fixed action patterns
( FAPs) that would occur in the presence of identifiable stimuli. Example of FAPs is the "Dance language" of bees. Another example is the beak movement of of newborn birds, that stimulates the mother bird to feed the child.

Etholgoy is now a well recognized scientific discipline. Human Ethology is gaining a lot of recognition in recent years, all over the world. ISHE, the International Society of Human Ethology was founded in 1972.The goal of ISHE is to promote exchange of knowledge and opinions concerning human Ethology. Understanding human ethology and using it as an applied science may go a long way in creating a positive balance in today's global society.

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