You are on page 1of 7

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

Sign in

News

Sport

Weather

iPlayer

TV

Radio

More

Search

BBC Radio 1

BBC 1Xtra

Science
Animal and plant behaviour

Animals exhibit a wide range of instinctive and learned behaviours, such as courtship displays and parental care. These types of behaviours help them to survive. Animals communicate with each other in a variety of ways, using sounds, chemicals, body language and spoken language. Plants communicate too they might produce chemicals to warn of attack.
Sexual reproduction Animals and birds use different ways to attract a mate. Many male animals and birds use courtship behaviour to attract a female. This is seen in the spectacular way male frigate birds inflate [inflate: To add air into something. ] their large red throat sacks, in the colourful display of feathers in male peacocks, and in way that male squirrels prove their fitness to potential mates.

Great frigate bird

Many animals and birds dont mate for life. They have several different sexual partners in their lifetime or during one breeding season. Often there is one dominant alpha male that mates with all of the sexually-mature females in his group. The alpha male is usually the largest or strongest male. This behaviour is seen in lions and also sea-lions. Some animals are monogamous [monogamous : Mating with only one individual. ] - they mate with one partner for life. This behaviour is seen in puffins and albatrosses. It is very unusual in mammals. In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Parental care Many animals and birds look after their young in a variety of ways. These behaviours are called parental care . This gives their young the best possible chance of survival to ensure that the genes[gene: The basic unit of genetic material inherited from our parents. A gene is a section of DNA which controls part of a cell's chemistry, particularly protein production. ] of the parents are passed on. Female mammals carry their young in their uterus[uterus : Also known as a womb. This is where the fertilised egg (ovum) develops. ] before they are born. An animal that does this gives birth to living young rather than laying eggs - is said to be a viviparous animal. Once born, mammals care for their young by

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

producing milk. The mothers milk provides the baby with all the nutrients [nutrient : A substance that provides sustenance to living organisms. ] it needs. Suckling from their mother is also a relatively safe place to feed.

Samoyed with puppies

Birds also look after their young. Parents incubate [incubate: To keep a sample of microbes warm so that the cells reproduce quickly. ] eggs until the chick is ready to be born. An extreme example of this can be seen in the behaviour of the male Emperor penguins in Antarctica. The male bird stands and incubates the egg for approximately two months in freezing cold winds without eating any food until his partner returns. The males can lose up to half their body weight in the process. In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. All newborn chicks are fed by one or both of their parents until they are old enough to leave their parents and live on their own. The killdeer bird displays an unusual type of parental care behaviour. It nests on the ground and when predators try to take its eggs or chicks, it lures them away by pretending it has a broken wing. Its a risky strategy for the parent bird but helps to give their young a good chance of survival.

Killdeer

Types of behaviour Behaviour is defined as the response of an animal to a stimulus[stimuli: Things that set off a reaction in the nervous system, for example, light, heat, sound, gravity, smell, taste, or temperature. The singular is stimulus.]. Some responses are innate[innate : When something (usually a behaviour) is present from birth and does not need to be learned. ]. They are not learned they are instinctive and happen automatically. A newborn pup sucking milk from its mother is an example of an innate behaviour. Other behaviours are learned. These are called conditioned behaviours, and

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

there are four types: operant, habituation, imprinting and classical . Operant conditioning This type of learned behaviour occurs by rewarding or punishing an animal. Teaching a dog to jump through a hoop by giving it treats is operant conditioning. This type of conditioning can be used to train: sniffer dogs to find illegal drugs or bombs police horses to remain calm in crowds or riots dolphins (at sea life centres) to jump through hoops

Bottlenose dolphin jumping through hoop

Habituation Habituation is where an animal becomes steadily used to a stimulus[stimuli: Things that set off a reaction in the nervous system, for example, light, heat, sound, gravity, smell, taste, or temperature. The singular is stimulus.] or situation. It is sometimes known as a simple learning or desensitisation process . An example of habituation would be the action of prairie dogs which have lived alongside humans for some time. They have become familiar with the scents of humans in their territory and no longer make alarm calls when a scent is found. Imprinting Imprinting is the tendency of young animals to follow the first moving object they see. This is usually the mother. Imprinting usually occurs during a short, but critical, period of a young animals life. Classical conditioning This type of learned behaviour occurs without rewarding or punishing. Many dogs will run towards the door to begin their walk when their owner shakes their lead. This is classical conditioning. A Russian scientist called Ivan Pavlov completed a famous experiment into classic conditioning. He observed that his dog produced lots of saliva [Saliva: Fluid secreted by glands in the mouth which moistens and softens food. It contains the enzyme amylase which digests starch, and a lubricant which makes food slippery and easy to swallow.] when he showed it food. Every time he fed his dog, he rang a bell for a short while afterwards. Eventually, just ringing the bell alone was enough to make his dog salivate. It had been conditioned into salivating when it heard the bell - and not just when it saw food. Communication in animals and plants Animals are able to communicate with each other in many different ways. Some of the most important ones are given below. Making sounds There are many examples of this behaviour. Snakes hiss to warn off an approaching threat. Rabbits and hares thump their feet on the ground to alert each other when predators[predator : An animal that hunts, kills and eats other

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

animals for food. ] are nearby. And one or more meerkats will act as lookout and make loud noises to warn the rest of their group of danger. Whales and dolphins are capable of making sounds under water to communicate with each other. Whale song can be heard over hundreds of kilometres. Visual displays A common example of a visual display that mammals exhibit is baring their teeth. In dogs and cats this is clearly a warning display.

A Gray Wolf protecting a deer kill

Another interesting example is seen in honey bees returning to their hive after finding a nectar source. They complete a dance to show the other bees the location of the nectar. It is known as the waggle dance . Some animals are even capable of making facial expressions like humans. Gorillas bare their teeth in a grin-like gesture to reassure one another during play. This is a type of body language [body language : The non-verbal way in which a person communicates their physical and mental state through using facial expressions, gesture and posture ]. Chemical communication Many animals use chemicals to communicate. Dogs and cats mark out their territories by urinating on the boundaries. Skunks produce an unpleasant chemical smell to ward off predators. Pheromones [pheromone: A chemical that is released by an animal to communicate with other members of the same species. ] are scent chemicals produced by some insects and some vertebrates[vertebrate: Vertebrates are animals that have a backbone. They include fish, mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. ]. Female dogs produce pheromones from scent glands and in urine to provide their newborn pups with a feeling of comfort. Some species including ants and bees - produce chemicals when attacked to warn others away from their colony or hive. Ants also mark their paths with chemicals. Language Humans have evolved extremely complex ways in which we communicate through language. There are over 5,000 different languages spoken around the

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

world - including sign language, which uses hand patterns and facial gestures in place of words. The most widely-spoken language is Mandarin Chinese. Communication in plants Plants also communicate with each other - and with other animals (particularly insects). some plants release chemicals to warn nearby plants of attack others have brightly-coloured flowers or flowers with bold patterns to attract insects for pollination [pollination: The process by which plants reproduce, as male gametes (pollen) are transferred (typically by insects or the wind) to female gametes (ova) in the flowers of another plant of the same species. ] other plants attract pollinating insects with enticing scents Famous ethologists An ethologist is a scientist who studies animal behaviour. There are four famous ethologists you need to know about. Jane Goodall (1934- ) is a British ethologist who has spent her life studying chimpanzees in Africa. She famously observed that they have distinct personalities and are capable of behaviour like hugging and tickling each other. Perhaps her most famous observation was that they are capable of using tools.

Jane Goodall, British primatologist

Dian Fossey (1932-1985) was an American ethologist who studied mountain gorillas in Africa. She lived very closely with them and they became habituated[habitat : The physical space in which a given species lives. ] to her. Fossey famously became the first person to be recorded making peaceful contact with a wild gorilla. A photograph (taken in 1969) shows a young male named Peanuts touching her hand. She spent her later years working to prevent poaching[poaching : Illegal hunting or fishing.].

Rwanda, Dian Fossey's tombstone

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) was a German ethologist who won the Nobel

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

Prize with Nickolaas Tinbergen (see below). He is most famously remembered for his work on imprinting[imprinting : The process by which very young animals come to recognise their parents. ]. This is when young animals - often birds copy their parents. If newly-hatched chicks first see another animal they can imprint on them instead of their own parents.

Konrad Lorenz

Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907-1988) was a Dutch ethologist who also won the Nobel Prize. He studied gulls and showed that their chicks instinctively knew to peck at red spots on their parents beaks to encourage them to regurgitate[regurgitate : To bring up food that has previously been swallowed. This is used by some animals to feed their young.] food.

Nikolaas Tinbergen, Dutch zoologist and ethologist

Choice chambers Choice chambers are small boxes that have areas with different conditions. Animals, often woodlice, are put inside and their choice for the different conditions is recorded by counting the numbers in each area after a short period of time. Typical experiments involving woodlice have combinations of light, dark, dry and damp areas. We would expect to see more woodlice in the dark and damp sections of the choice chamber. This is most like the conditions they like in real life - we tend to find woodlice under rocks and rotting wood.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]

BBC - GCSE Bitesize Science - Animal and plant behaviour : Revision, Print

Choice chamber

More from Animal and plant behaviour

CBBC CBeebies Comedy Food History

Learning Music Science Nature Local

Northern Ireland Scotland Wales Full A-Z

Mobile site

Terms of Use Privacy Cookies

BBC 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the


content of external sites. Read more.

About the BBC Accessibility Help Contact the BBC Parental Guidance

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/triple_edexcel/behaviour/animal_plant_behaviour/revision/print/[10/21/2013 8:24:37 PM]