9.201 | Spring 2000 | Graduate

Advanced Animal Behavior


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


9.20 or Equivalent.

Survey and special topics designed for graduate students in the brain and cognitive sciences. Emphasizes ethological studies of natural behavior patterns and their analysis in laboratory work, with contributions from field biology (mammology, primatology), sociobiology, and comparative psychology. Stresses mammalian behavior but also includes major contributions from studies of other vertebrates and of invertebrates. Covers some applications of animal-behavior knowledge to neuropsychology and behavioral pharmacology.


Below is an outline for the first session. Please do the following:

  • Review the book list: How many of these authors/books have you read/seen/heard of? Which books which you own or have read would you add?
  • Review the topics list. We will not have time to deal with all of these topics; how we use our time will depend on both student and instructor interest. Additional or alternative suggestions are welcome.
  • Read the outline below, for discussion today and in session 2.

A. How have We Learned of Animals and Their Behavior?

  1. Pets.
  2. Folklore. (Examples from students? The medieval beastiaries. Examples from R. Hendrikson, More Cunning Than Man: A Social History of Rats and Men, Dorset Press, N.Y., 1983.)
  3. Human oriented studies and practices: mostly uses of animals. (Economics and meat industry; sports; hunting; some religions.)
  4. Cf. sciences: mostly uses as well! (Biology; comparative psychology; pharmacology; toxicology; neuroscience)
  5. Humane society; “Animal Rights” movement: human oriented in a different way. Anthropomorphism re cognition and feelings (“Anthropomentism”, “Anthropaffectism”). Regard for apparent (subjectively assessed) consciousness, in humans and other animals.
  6. Contrasting attitudes in different religions. The extremes of Judaism/Christianity, and Jainism. (Other examples?)
  7. Arguably better: basic science approach – both descriptive and experimental, and with the perspective of evolution.

B. Topics List (Handout)

  1. Rationale.
  2. Levels of treatment? (Ask re backgrounds.)
  3. Time needed!
  4. Special topics seminar level vs. undergraduate survey level.


  1. List of books for selected readings (handout): Note relative importance.
  2. Amount? approx. 10-20 pp/hr x 9 hr = 90-180 pp/wk.
  3. Approach: Read for key concepts and their illustration in actual examples. (I pay for animal stories!)
  4. (Story: How we paid M. Murphy for hamster genes.)
  5. Assignment for next session: Selections from K. Lorenz, The Foundations of Ethology, pp. 1-12, 28-32, 46-64, (72-89), 89-93, (93-99), 100-103, 107-152. Cf. his stories (extra credit): King Solomon’s Ring, The Year of the Greylag Goose. Cf. N. Tinbergen’s Curious Naturalists.

D. Session Plan

  1. Lecture/discussion of key concepts in readings (required).
  2. Student presentations of papers or small topic areas. (Today: you tell me what you already know about animals, and how you learned it.)

E. Requirements

  1. The readings and short presentations.
  2. Project paper and presentation at end of term. (Discuss your chosen topic with the Professor.)
  3. For session 1: Read the story: “Four Hours in the Life of a Syrian Hamster,” with commentary.

F. Approaches to the Study of Animal Behavior

1. Focus on the Individual Organism

a. “Comparative Psychology” in America: The real focus was/is on man. Notes on non-biological comparisons, “Homologies”, “Phylogenetic Scale”.
b. “Ethology”; some people now prefer “Behavioral Ecology”.

  1. Definition by K. Lorenz: see The Foundations of Ethology, pp. 1, 3, 65, 101.
  2. Whitman and Heinroth. Stories from Lorenz: pp. 100, 107.
  3. Cf. Charles Darwin. Illustrations from his book.
  4. “Human Ethology” of Eibl-Eibesfeldt (see K. L., pp. 10-11). The “Body Language” craze.
  5. “Neuroethology”– an approach that goes two ways:

a) Ethology informs brain & behavior studies.
b) Brain manipulation effects –> new info. on behavioral organization.
Examples: multiple kinds of aggression; evidence of primitive vs. advanced behavioral elements (spinal/brainstem vs. forebrain localization).

2. Focus on Societies

a. “Sociobiology”: E. O. Wilson’s definition and diagram: See Sociobiology, The Abridged Edition, pp. 3-5.
b. Cf. Human Sociology. Notes from E. O. Wilson, Ibid., pp. 4.

3. Focus on Habitat and the Species it Supports, and Interactions (“Balance”)

a. “Ecology”: E.g., Tropical rainforest (see Tropical Nature, by A. Forsyth and K. Miyata ), Tropical savannah, etc.
b. The problem of breadth: Knowing too little about everything. Hence, people often think of ecology as focussed on conservation. But there are good examples of ecology as a science that includes animal behavior: See Bourliere’s book.
c. When the behavior of animals becomes critical: “Upsetting the balance of nature.” Examples: African elephants and the acacia trees. Man’s hunting, pollution effects, pleasures that encourage poaching. “Killer” bees, etc.

4. Focus on Single Species or Groups of Species in a broad way that includes Ecology and Behavior.

a. “Mammology”. Note Bourliere’s books, one older, one recent. Note contents; examples.
b. “Primatology”, “Cetology”, “Entymology”, etc.

5. The Amateur “Naturalists”: The Disciplined Hobbyist’s Contributions. (Cf. astronomy.) Details, when amassed, have been important in the development of ideas about behavioral evolution.

See Lorenz’s comments about the contributions of amateur ornithologists – bird watchers – to early ethology. Also, Jim Corbett’s stories (Jungle Lore, Oxford Univ. Press, 1953): Examples from the life of a hunter who cared about animals.


Animal Lab Time

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2000
Learning Resource Types
Presentation Assignments
Activity Assignments
Written Assignments