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an action carried out by muscle or glands under control of the nervous system in response to a stimulus


the scientific study of how animals behave, particulary in their natural environments

proximate causation

how' a behavior occurs or is modified

ultimate causation

why' a behavior occurs in the context of natural selection

nehavioral ecology

the study of the ecological and evolutionary basis for animal behavior

fixed action pattern

a sequence of unlearned acts that is essentially unchangeable and, once initiated, usually carried to completion

sign stimulus

an external cue that triggers a fixed action pattern


a change in activity or turning rate in response to a stimulus


an oriented movement toward (positive taxis) or away from (negative taxis) some stimulus


a regular, long-distance change in location - it is observed in a wide variety of birds, fishes, and other animals


a stimulus transmitted from one animal to another


the transmission and reception of signals constitues this animal communication; it is an essential element of interaction between individuals


animals that communite odors emit these chemical substances

innate behavior

behavior that is developmentally fixed in one way


the modification of behavior based on specific experiences


a loss of responsiveness to stimuli that convey little or no new information (eg. A cry that persists is no longer heard after some time); this is one of the simplest forms of learning


includes both learned and innate components; it is the formation at a spicific stage in life of a long-lastin behavioral response to a particular individual or object

sensitive period

a type of learning distinguised from imprinting; it is also called a critical period, a limited developmental phase when certain behaviors can be learned

spatial learning

the establisment of a memory that reflects the environment's spatial structure


location indicators

cognitive map

a representation in the nervous system of the spatial relationships between objects in an animal's surroundings; this allows animals to navigate more flexibly and efficiently by relating landmark positions to one anothers

associative learning

the ability to associate one environmental feature (such as a color) with another (such as a foul taste)

classical conditioning

division of associative learning; an arbirary stimulus becomes associated with a particular outcome. Eg. A dog is tought to recognize when dinner is about to be served by recognizing the ringing of a bell

operant conditioning

also called trial-and-error learning, an animal learns to associate one of its behaviors with a reward or punishment and then tends to repeat or avoid that kind of behavior


the process of knowing represented by awareness, reasoning, recollection, and judgement. In addition to primates, some insects have been shown to exhibit cognition

problem solving

the cognitive activity of devising a method to proceed from one state to another in the face of real or apparent obstacles. Eg a chimpanzee in a room with boxes and a banana high up, will stack the boxes and climb them to reach the banana; other animals that can problem solve are dolphins, ravens, crows, and jays

cross-fostering study

a young of one species are placed in the care of adults from another species

twin study

researchers compare the behavior of idential twins raised apart with those raised in the same household; studies the influence of genetics and environment on behavior


food-obtaining behavior; includes not only eating but also any activities an animal uses to search for, recognize, and capture food items

optimal forgaging model

natural selection should favor foraging behavior that minimizes the costs of foraging and maximizes the benefits


mating with no strong pair-bonds or lasting relationships


one male mating with one female


an individual of one sex mating with several of the other


polygamous male with many females


polygamous female with many males

agnostic behavior

an often ritualized contest that determines which competitor gains access to a resource, such as food or mates

game theory

evaluates alternative strategies in situations where the outcome depends on the strategies of all the individuals involved


selflessness; functional in animals is when one individual reduces their individual fitness to increase the fitness of other individuals in the population

inclusive fitness

the total effect an individual has on proliferating its genes by producing its own offspring and by providing aid that enables other close relatives, who share many of those genes, to produce offspring

coefficient of relatedness

r; equals the fraction of genes that, on average, are shared

Hamilton's rule

rB > C; C=how many fewer offspring the altruist produces; B=the average number of extra offspring that the beneficiary of an altruistic act produces; calculation for estimating the benefits of alturism

kin selection

the natural selection that favors altruistic behavior by enhancing reproductive success of relatives; it weakens with hereditary distance

reciprocal altruism

altruism between non-kin animals in exchange for a favor in the future

social learning

type of learning through observing others, it forms the roots for culture


a system of information transfer through social learning or teaching that influences the behavior of individuals in a population

mate-choice copying

a behavior in which individuals in a populaiton copy the mate choice of others


the main premise of sociobiology is that certain behavioral characteristics exist because they are expressions of genes that have been perpetuated by natural selection

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