An animal's behavior consists of all the actions it performs. Behaviors include catching food, avoiding predators, and ﬁnding a mate.
Behavior is a complicated process of response to a stimulus, a signal that causes an animal to react in some way. Some stimuli come from outside the animal's body, while other stimuli, like thirst, come from inside the animal's body. The animal's reaction to the stimulus is called a response. All animal behaviors are caused by stimuli.
Animals can perform some behaviors by instinct, without being taught. An instinct is a response to a stimulus that is inborn and that an animal performs correctly the ﬁrst time.
Learning is the process that leads to changes in behavior based on practice or experience. Learned behaviors include imprinting, conditioning, trial-and-error learning, and insight learning. Because they result from an animal's experience, they are not usually done perfectly the ﬁrst time.
In imprinting, certain newly hatched birds and newborn mammals recognize and follow the ﬁrst moving object they see. Imprinting involves a combination of instinct and learning.
Learning that a particular stimulus or response leads to a good or bad outcome is called conditioning. One form of conditioning is trial-and-error learning. In trial-and-error learning, an animal learns to perform a behavior more and more skillfully by repeating behaviors that result in rewards and avoiding behaviors that result in punishment.
Insight learning occurs when an animal solves a problem or learns how to do something new by applying what it already knows, without a period of trial and error. Insight learning is most common in primates, such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans.
Although animals don't all use language, they do communicate. Animals use mostly sounds, scents, and body movements to communicate with one another. A chemical released by one animal that affects the behavior of another animal of the same species is called a pheromone.
Animals compete with one another for limited resources, such as food, water, space, shelter, and mates. Competition can occur among different species of animals and between members of the same species. When they compete, animals may display aggression, which is a threatening behavior that one animal uses to gain control over another. Aggression between members of the same species hardly ever results in the injury or death of any of the competitors.
An animal protects its access to resources by establishing a territory. A territory is an area that is occupied and defended by an animal or group of animals.
Courtship behavioris behavior in which males and females of the same species prepare for mating. Courtship behavior ensures that the males and females of the same species recognize one another, so that mating can take place.
Some animals live alone, while others live in groups. Living in groups enables animals to cooperate.A societyis a group of closely related animals of the same species that work together in a highly organized way.
Animal behaviors called cyclic behaviors change over time in regular, predictable patterns. Cyclic behaviors usually change over the course of a day or a season. Daily behavior cycles are examples of circadian rhythms. Other behavior cycles, such as hibernation, are related to seasons. Hibernation is a state of greatly reduced body activity that occurs in some kinds of animals during the winter.
Migrationis a cyclic behavior that involves the regular, seasonal journey of an animal from one place to another and back again. Animals usually migrate to an area that provides a lot of food or a good environment for reproduction.
Since at least 1803, scientists have been using technologies to track animal migrations. Recent technologies include attaching electronic tags to animals. Electronic tags give off repeating signals that are picked up by radio devices or satellites. Scientists can track the locations and movements of the tagged animals without recapturing them. These electronic tags can provide a great deal of data.
Tracking animals by radio involves two devices. A transmitter attached to the animal sends out a signal in the form of radio waves. The scientist's receiver picks up the signal. With satellite tracking, the receivers are placed in a network of satellites, instruments in orbit thousands of kilometers above Earth. Together, the signals from all the satellites determine the precise location of the animal.
The information gathered from electronic tags is helping biologists piece together a complete picture of animal migration patterns. Tracking migrations is an important tool to better understand and protect species.
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