Animal behavior is the collection of activities that make up an animal's response to its environment. Its study plays a vital role in understanding how human activity has an impact on the animal world. Concerns about the treatment of animals have significantly affected policies and laws in production agriculture and ownership of companion animals. Study can be divided into several different approaches: Behavioral ecology, ethology, and sociobiology.
Behavioral ecology investigates the relationship between the environment and how the animal reacts. It also emphasizes the evolutionary roots of an animal's behavior, in contrast to the classical studies and research of animals in laboratory settings. In his 1966 book "Adaptation and Natural Selection," George C. Williams posed the question as to how behavior affects evolutionary fitness. Researchers have shown that an animal's environment plays a crucial role in determining which behaviors are exhibited in natural settings.
Ethology first emerged in the mid-1930s, differing from traditional biological studies of animals in that scientific principles were applied, and practitioners used field observations and laboratory experiments. This field was developed and first recognized as a science in Europe, where experimental conditions were kept as natural as possible.
Certain categories of behavior are common in all animals e.g. feeding and reproduction, but these activities vary from species to species. Physiologists study how changes in the body like hormone levels affect behavior. Sociobiology is the study of the social organization of a species and develops rules in order to explain the evolution of certain social systems. Scientists regularly conduct field studies in order to understand the complexities and causes of animal behavior. Although many studies are conducted in laboratories, zoos, or wildlife parks, many animals can only be observed in the wild.
Field investigations address many different types of behavior such as social behavior, sheltering and feeding habits, mating systems, migrations and predator-prey relationships. The study of animal behavior helps to reveal the roles individuals play within a species. An example of this is the elephant grieving ritual and the environment of mutual care in which they rear their young. Field studies have enhanced understanding of how to conserve endangered species and how to counter and control pest species.
Animal behavior has been a key field of interest throughout history. Aristotle wrote ten volumes on the history of animals, while the Roman naturalist Pliny extensively recorded observations of organisms in his book "Natural History." Charles Darwin recorded the behavior of the marine iguanas of the Galapagos Islands, and also published a book "The Expression of the Emotions of Man and Animals" (1872), which looked at how natural selection would favor specialized behavioral patterns for survival. Darwin's theories helped to shape modern biology. American biologist and psychologist Margaret Nice published over 250 papers and books on the subject of animals. Nice was one of the first scientists to study the behaviour of individual animals living in the wild, capturing and marking individual song sparrows in her backyard.
In 1953, Niko Tinbergen published his studies in "The Herring Gull's World." These studies helped to establish the field of ethology. Together with Austrian naturalist Konrad Lorenz, Tinbergen conducted field studies of animals such as fish, wasps, ducks, geese, butterflies, and bees. This led to greater organization within studies of animal behavior. Tinbergen and Lorenz, and later, the work of Karl von Frisch, helped to lay the four cornerstones of ethological study: evolution, development, causation, and function of behavior. The trio was awarded the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine for their scientific study of animal behavior in 1973. In 1960, English zoologist Jane Goodall began her primate studies with chimpanzees in Tanzania. Through her extensive work, she has greatly increased human understanding of primate behavior such as tool use and warfare, which were previously believed to be unique to humans. Goodall's efforts helped to prolong the survival of chimpanzees in the wild and brought the issues of wildlife conservation to the attention of the world. Goodall was aided in some aspects of her work by Dian Fossey, who recorded the behavior of mountain gorillas in Zaire and Rwanda. The 1985 movie "Gorillas in the Mist" is based upon Fossey's story.
Modern technology plays an ever-increasing role in studies of animal behavior. Radio telemetry is used to track the movements and behavior of various animals from reptiles and amphibians to large mammals. Satellite telemetry is used to document bird and sea turtle migration routes, while depth recorders are placed on diving seals, dolphins, sharks and whales.