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Behavior Development b. Learning. Learning is a change in an animal’s behavior linked to a particular experience it has Brain properties change by gene and environmental interactions . Learning. Forms of learning Imprinting Specialized learning Variation in learning behavior

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  • Learning is a change in an animal’s behavior linked to a particular experience it has

  • Brain properties change by gene and environmental interactions


  • Forms of learning

    • Imprinting

    • Specialized learning

  • Variation in learning behavior

    • Environmental influences



  • Why would this behavior be adaptive?


  • Occurs when a young animal’s early social interactions lead to learning

  • Functions

    • Recognition of parents in animals with preccocial young (ex geese)

    • Recognition of an appropriate sexual partner

  • Dependence of recognition on recognition

  • Young animal must see model to recognize it

  • Learning is flexible- model does not need to look like parent or even same species

Konrad lorenz
Konrad Lorenz

  • Imprinting in Greylag Geese

  • Imprint on humans

  • Later preferred Humans as mates



Great tits blue tits
Great Tits & Blue Tits

Imprinting has different effects among species

Imprinting has different effects among species
Imprinting has Different Effects Among Species

  • When cross imprinted

  • Some individuals became imprinted on opposite species

  • None of the Great Tits mated with a member of it’s own species

    • Formed a mate preference based on imprinted foster parent

  • Most of Blue Tits mated within it’s own species

    • Exhibited a different developmental interaction

Specialized learning
Specialized Learning

  • Memory formation to aid in finding food

Clark s nutcracker1
Clark’s Nutcracker

  • Whack cones of Whitebark pine

    • Also eats limber pine seeds

  • Seed pouch under tongue

  • Distribute seeds in Caches

    • Cache more than they will retrieve

      • Hides up to 38,000 of seeds per season

      • Up to 5,000 separate caches

      • Up to 20 miles away

    • Buries seeds in fall downslope

    • In winter will retrieve

Clark s nutcracker3
Clark’s Nutcracker

  • Nutcrackers able to relocate caches with up to 80% accuracy

  • Recall memory for months

  • Use landmarks to relocate caches

Seeds germinate in clusters
Seeds germinate in clusters

Un-retrieved caches create new stands

Learning varies among members of the same species
Learning varies among members of the same species

  • Chickadees in Alaska require fewer inspections to locate food stores that the same species in Colorado

  • What causes variation among individuals?

Environmental differences
Environmental Differences

  • Individuals can learn based on their interactions as young

  • Interactions with siblings can shape behavior

  • Kin recognition

    • Used to identify closely related individuals from potential rivals

  • Cues such as olfaction & sight can be used as recognition cues

Polistes paper wasps
Polistes Paper Wasps

  • Paper wasps use both olfactory cues to recognize individuals from the same nest

  • Females are also able to recognize facial markings

    • Individuals with altered face markings were attacked more frequently

Belding s ground squirrels2
Belding’s Ground Squirrels

  • Lives in subalpine and alpine communities

    • Meadows

  • Social ground squirrel

    • Females remain, males disperse

    • Closely related females help raise and protect each others offspring

  • Prey species lifestyle

    • Aerial predators such as hawks

    • Ground predators such as weasels

    • Colonial living aids in protection

Kin recognition
Kin Recognition

  • Kin recognition critical

    • Helps identify closely related for assistance

    • Ability to recognize intruders

    • Prevents inbreeding

  • Strong selection pressure favoring genes that code for recognition behaviors

Kin recognition1
Kin Recognition

  • Signals used to identify kin include

  • Scent

  • Appearance

Ground squirrel musical chairs
Ground Squirrel Musical Chairs

  • Newborn Ground squirrels were moved from their nests into 4 groups

  • Siblings reared apart

  • Siblings reared together

  • Non-siblings raised apart

  • Non-siblings raised together

Belding s ground squirrel torture
Belding’s Ground Squirrel Torture!

  • After raised in their respective groups ground squirrels were placed in an arena to test their ability to recognize each other

  • Recognition was measure using levels of aggression

  • Aggression indicates less kin recognition

What would you predict
What would you predict?

  • Siblings reared apart

  • Siblings reared together

  • Non-siblings raised apart

  • Non-siblings raised together

Individuals learn based on their olfactory interactions as young
Individuals learn based on their olfactory interactions as young

  • Ground squirrels raised together learned each others smell and were less aggressive towards each other

    • Independent of whether they were siblings

  • Ground squirrels raised separately tended to be more aggressive toward each other

Have we met
Have we met? young

  • Biological sisters raised apart had fewer aggressive interactions than nonsiblings raised apart

  • Indicates siblings have a secondary learned behavior for recognizing kin

Armpit effect
Armpit Effect young

  • Animals have ability to recognize relatives they have never met before

  • Individuals can learn their own olfactory profile

  • Self recognition provides a reference to compare other individual’s smells to

    • Individuals who smell similar are more closely related, whereas individuals that smell less similar are less closely related

Chemical communication
Chemical Communication young

  • Oral and dorsal glands

  • Nasal investigation

  • Scent mark behavior

  • 5 odors that are individually distinct

Scent discrimination
Scent Discrimination young

  • Individuals learn to recognize their own scent

  • Spend more time sniffing less closely related relatives

Ultimate causation
Ultimate Causation young

  • Kin Recognition by using scent discrimination allows Belding’s ground squirrels in order to

    • Helps identify closely related for assistance

    • Ability to recognize intruders

    • Prevents inbreeding

Genetic differences
Genetic Differences young

  • Some behavioral phenotypes can be determined by a genetic component

  • Alleles that code for behavioral differences can be selected for or against by natural selection to maximize fitness

Western terrestrial garter snake thamnophis elegans
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake youngThamnophis elegans

Western terrestrial garter snake thamnophis elegans1
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake youngThamnophis elegans

  • Highly variable in habitat

    • Can be found near water or away from water

  • Feeds on a wide array of food sources

    • Slugs, worms, leeches, tadpoles, frogs, fish, insects, lizards, small birds

Western terrestrial garter snake populations
Western Terrestrial Garter Snake Populations young

  • Coastal and inland snake populations exhibit variation in their diet preference

  • Inland population

    • Lives in arid habitats near lakes and streams

    • Feed primarily on fish and frogs

  • Coastal populations

    • Lives in moist coast ranges

    • Feed primarily on banana slugs

Is variation in prey preference genetic?

Garter snake prey preference experiment
Garter Snake Prey Preference Experiment young

  • Pregnant snakes from both coastal and inland populations were brought into lab

  • Immediately after birth offspring were isolated

    • Controlling for environmental learning influences

  • After several days each snake offspring was offered a segment of Banana slug


Garter snake populations exhibit prey preference
Garter Snake populations exhibit Prey Preference young

  • Feeding score indicates how many days a snake ate the offered slug

  • A score of 10 indicates slug was eaten every offering

  • Coastal slugs exhibited greater likelihood of eating slug than inland garter

The tadpole vs slug taste test
The Tadpole vs Slug Taste Test options?

  • Newborn garter snakes are offered cotton swabs with different prey “juice”

  • Snakes were offered swab for 1 minute

  • Preference was measured by number of tongue flicks


Tongue flicking in snakes
Tongue Flicking in Snakes options?

  • Tongue flicking is a sensory-gathering behavior

    • Olfaction

  • Tongue flicks are used during prey trailing, foraging, mate searching

  • Chemical molecules gathered by the tongue are delivered to the Vomeronasal organ on roof of mouth

Tongue flicking in snakes1
Tongue Flicking in Snakes options?

  • Ability to triangulate chemical cues in the environment is maximized by:

    • Waving tongue in the air to detect vertical gradients

    • Forked tongue increases sensitivity to chemical gradients in the environment

    • Tongue flicking rate

Vomeronasal organ
Vomeronasal Organ options?

  • AKA Jacobsen’s organ

The tadpole vs slug taste test1
The Tadpole vs Slug Taste Test options?

  • There was no difference in preference to toad tadpole samples

    • i.e. Both populations had about the same number of tongue flicks to the tadpole covered cotton swab

  • Coastal garter snakes showed higher preference to slug samples

    • i.e. Coastal population had a significantly higher number of tongue flicks to the slug covered cotton swab

  • Genetic crosses of both populations indicated that this prey preference was being driven by a variation in alleles

How could prey preference variation occurred
How Could Prey Preference Variation Occurred? options?

  • Remember the bell shaped curve?

  • A rare slug feeding allele could have become more prevalent in the coastal population

  • Hypothesis- Garter snakes with rare slug eating allele were able to gain a fitness advantage because they could acquire more energy from eating a slug than a snake eating a tadpole

Selection Pressure

Genetic differences1
Genetic Differences options?

  • Genetic differences in behavior are hard to understand because most phenotypes are polygenic

  • Polygenic Inheritance means multiple genes effect 1 characteristic

    • Ex. Skin pigmentation

  • But sometimes a single gene can effect a behavior

Single gene effect on behavior development
Single Gene Effect on Behavior Development options?

  • When a single gene effects a behavior scientists can manipulate the gene to test the effects of genes on behavior

    • Inactivate the gene

    • Knockout experiments

  • Aids in understanding the role of genes on the development

Knockout experiments
Knockout Experiments options?

  • Laboratory mice

  • fosB genes

  • Codes for proteins involved in gene transcription

  • If fosB gene is inactivated transcription can not occur

  • Scientists artificially alter the code of the fosB gene

Knockout experiments1
Knockout Experiments options?

  • fosB genes involved in influencing maternal behavior

  • Females with active fosB genes tends to offspring

  • Females with inactivated fosB genes does not tend offspring

Ultimate causation??

How would a natural mutation effect mice?

Developmental homeostasis
Developmental Homeostasis options?

  • The capacity of developmental mechanisms within individuals to produce adaptive traits, despite potentially disruptive effects of mutant genes and suboptimal environmental conditions

  • Behavioral development is redundant

    • There is a “back-up” plan

  • Allows animals to adapt and develop normally when they face unusual environments

Developmental homeostasis mediates suboptimal environments
Developmental Homeostasis Mediates Suboptimal Environments options?

  • Belding’s ground squirrels

  • Baby squirrels were raised in isolation

    • No environmental sensory input

  • When hear audio recording of alarm call react normally

    • Stop behavior and look around

  • Illustrates that there is redundancy in development of behavior

Developmental homeostasis mediates effects of mutations
Developmental Homeostasis Mediates Effects of Mutations options?

  • Developmental homeostasis helps counteract deleterious mutations

    • Use of a “back-up” plan

  • Mutations thought to contribute to asymmetry in body development

  • Developmental homeostasis aids individuals in developing symmetrical bodies despite mutations

Why is symmetry so important
Why is Symmetry so Important? options?

  • Symmetry is thought to be a signal of mate quality

  • In many species, symmetrical individuals are mated with more frequently than non-symmetrical males

  • Symmetry is adaptive!!

Adaptive value of learning
Adaptive Value of Learning options?

  • Modification of behavior based on experience

  • Behavior modified to maximize fitness

  • Behavior modification and its mechanisms are costly

Cost benefit analysis of behavior
Cost- Benefit Analysis of Behavior options?

  • Benefit of a behavior has to outweigh the cost

  • Discriminating behavior in mate selection behavior of Thinnine wasps


Cost benefit analysis
Cost- Benefit Analysis options?

  • Male invests lots of energy in process of “mating” with orchid

  • Potentially loses mating opportunities

  • Males change behavior by remembering locations of orchids and avoiding scents from those locations

    • Cost of processing stimulus

    • Cost of storing memory (develop brain)

  • The benefit of learning behavior is that male increases his efficiency at finding females

    • Benefit in reproductive potential outweighs cost of learning behavior

Sex differences in learning behavior
Sex Differences in Learning Behavior options?

  • Males and females may vary in their ecological pattern

  • Variations can lead to different cost-benefit analysis formulas between sexes

Vole ecology
Vole Ecology options?

  • Polygynous Meadow vole

    • Males have multiple mates

    • Male territory has to encompass all female territories

    • Male territory 4X size that of female

    • Consequence- male has to be able to navigate greater area than female

  • Monogamous Prairie vole

    • Male and female live together

    • Male and female have same size territory

    • Consequence- males and females navigate same area

Vole torture
Vole Torture options?

  • Meadow voles (polygynous)

    • Males made fewer errors than females

    • Suggests males learn more readily

  • Prairie voles (monogamous)

    • Males and females had no significant difference in error rates

    • Suggests males and females learn equally

Cost benefit analysis1
Cost-Benefit Analysis options?

  • Recall learning behavior is costly

  • Behavior modification and its mechanisms are costly

    • Requires genes, gene expression, brain power

Mammalian hippocampus
Mammalian Hippocampus options?

  • Long term memory

  • Spatial relationships like navigation

  • What would you expect when comparing hippocampus size in male and female meadow voles?

Vole hippocampus
Vole Hippocampus options?

  • Male meadow voles have larger hippocampus than the female

  • Pine voles (monogamous)

    • Male and female similar sized hippocampus

Not so fast
Not so fast! options?

  • Brown Headed Cowbird: Interspecific Brood Parasite

Reproduction requires lots of energy reproductive effort
Reproduction Requires Lots of Energy (reproductive effort) options?

  • Save energy by eliminating parental care

  • Allows more energy for creating additional gametes for further reproductive events.

  • More reproductive events = higher fitness

  • Cowbirds produce 30-40 eggs per season


Don t put all of your eggs in one basket
Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket! options?

  • Reduces risk of predation by having many nesting sites

  • Predators include mice, ground squirrels, weasel, badgers, deer, and hawks

  • Increase fitness by targeting multiple nests

    • Parasitizes smaller birds


Female cowbird ecology
Female Cowbird Ecology options?

  • Female must find host nest

  • Female monitors nest to lay eggs when host is laying eggs

    • Must remember location to return

  • Female lays up 40 eggs- must be able to locate sufficient number of nests

  • Female needs high spatial processing abilities

Male cowbird ecology
Male Cowbird Ecology options?

  • Males do not need high spatial processing abilities

    • Males do not need to find nests

    • Males spatial processing limited to finding mates and food

Sex Differences in Learning Behavior- options?Variation in male and female ecology result in different cost-benefit analysis formulas between sexes

  • Female Cowbirds exhibit larger hippocampus volume

Operant conditioning
Operant Conditioning options?

  • A type of learning based on trial and error, in which an action, becomes more frequently performed if rewarded

  • Involves an operant (a voluntary action) and consequence that comes from that action

Skinner box
Skinner Box options?

  • B.F.Skinner, psychologist

  • Lever is accidentally pressed as rat explores box

    • Food is dispensed

  • Positive reinforcement will increase frequency of behavior

Negative reinforcement
Negative Reinforcement options?

  • Novel taste followed by nausea results in avoidance of food source

  • Adaptive behavior for avoiding toxic foods

Sources options?