The general aim of the course is to provide a biological background for the study of animal and human behaviour. Main ethological concepts are proximate and ultimate causes of behaviour in a Darwinian logic; development of behaviour (roles of genes and environment); control of behaviour (neural, hormonal and organizing mechanisms); evolution of communication (signal, song, human speech); evolution of sex differences.
J. Alcock, Animal Behaviour. An evolutionary approach (VIII ed), Sinauer Associates, MA [Chapters I-VI, IX-X, Glossary].
To appreciate the heuristic value of animal models. To frame basic questions about animal categories into two categories: "How" and "Why". How do genes, environment and physiological mechanisms cause an individual to behave in particular ways? Why have certain behavioural traits persisted in species to the present?
I test alternative hypotheses by means of a critical analysis of selected study cases: whether proximate or ultimate, whether based on theory X or theory Y.
Type of Assessment
written and oral examination
The basic levels of analysis in the study of animal behaviour: questions about proximate and ultimate cause, the lesson of Charles Darwin, Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen. Instinct or learning? gene-environment interactions in bird song and human language. The development of behaviour: genetic differences and alternative phenotypes, interactive theory, imprinting, behavioural flexibility and homeostasis. The control of behaviour: neural, hormonal and organizing mechanisms. Analyzing communication: historical pathways, adaptation in signalers and receivers, sensory exploitation, honesty and deception. Adaptive responses to predators and coevolution prey/predator: mobbing, stotting, warning coloration, batesian mimicry and further darwinian puzzles. The enigma of sex. Evolution by sexual selection: competition among rivals and mate choice, armaments and ornaments.