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Behavioral Ecology

Science that studies the interaction between animals and their environments from an evolutionary perspective.


The study of animal behavior.

Associative Learning

Type of animal learning process by which animals take one stimulus and associate it with another.

Classical Conditioning

Type of associative learning that Ivan Pavlov demonstrated with his experiments involving salivation in dogs.

Fixed-Action Pattern

An innate behavior that seems to be a programmed response to some stimulus.


Loss of responsiveness to unimportant stimuli that do not provide appropriate feedback.


Innate behavior that is learned during a critical period early in life.

Insight Learning

The ability to do something correctly the first time even with no prior experience.

Observational Learning

The ability of an organism to learn how to do something by watching another individual do it first.

Operant Conditioning

Type of associative learning that is based on trial and error.


A random change in the speed of movement in response to a stimulus. Organism speed up in places they don't like and slow down in places they do like.


This is a cyclic movement of animals over long distances according to the time of year.


The reflex movement toward or away from a stimulus.

Agonistic Behavior

Behavior that results from a conflict of interest between individuals; often involves intimidation and submission.

Altruistic Behavior

Behavior pattern that reduces the overall fitness of one organism while increasing the fitness of another.

Coefficient of Relatedness

Statistic that represents the average proportion if genes that two individuals have in common.

Dominance Hierarchies

A ranking of power among the members of a group of individuals.


The behavior of actively searching for and eating a particular food source.

Inclusive Fitness

An individual's fitness gain that is a direct result of his or her contribution to the reproductive effort of closely related kin. This results from the fact that close kin share copies of identical genes.

Optimal Foraging

Theory that predicts that natural selection will favor animals that chose foraging strategies that maximize the differential between benefits and costs.

Reciprocal Altruism

Altruistic behavior performed with the expectation that the favor will be returned.


Scenario in which territorial individuals defend their territory against other individuals.

Chemical Communication

When mammals and insects communicate through the use of chemical signals called pheromones.

Visual Communication

Communication through the use of the visual senses.

Auditory Communication

Communication that involves the use of sound in the conveying of a message.

Tactile Communication

Communication that involves the use of touch in the conveying of a message.

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