Behaviours in Animals – Innate, Instinctive, Learning behaviours

Behaviours in Animals

Habits or behaviour is the actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, that includes the other systems or organisms around in addition to the physical environment.

All animals, consisting of humans, display some really unique – and typically entertaining – behaviours. In studying animals, we frequently associate defining differences in between them based upon their behaviours, just as much or perhaps more so than their anatomy. The study of animal behaviours is known as ethology, which especially stresses the natural surroundings that affect the behaviours.

Behaviour is divided into 2 primary types, innate behaviour and learned behaviour.

Innate Behaviour

It is a collection of actions that are predetermined by the inheritance of specific nerve or cytoplasmic pathways in multicellular or unicellular (acellular) organisms. As a result of the built-in pathways, a given stimulus would produce invariably the same action. All plant behaviour is natural.

These behaviour patterns have actually been developed and been reined over lots of generations (selected) and their main adaptive significance depends on their survival value to the species.

Another function is the economy it puts on nerve pathways within multicellular organisms since it does not demand the greater centre of the nervous system.

Types of innate behaviour

(i) Kinesis: It is a behaviour in which an organism alters the speed of random motions which help them to make it through in the environment e.g. this kind of behaviour allows pillbugs to reach the moist area which is needed for their life.

(ii) Taxes: In contrast to kinesis, a taxis (plural: taxes) is a directed motion either towards (positive taxis) or away from (negative taxis) a stimulus.

2.Reflexes and Instincts

These are extremely complex behaviours and include biological rhythms, territorial behaviour, courtship, mating, aggressiveness, altruism, social hierarchies and social organizations.

Further Reading:  Membrane Transport
Instinctive behaviour

This is the kind of behaviour that depends upon the genetic material which the animal acquires. The animal might be born with the right responses integrated into the nervous system as part of its inherited structure. Experience has no apparent influence on this kind of behaviour.

This kind of behaviour depends on the selection operating throughout the history of species so that it helps in the versatility of the organism in the environment. Instinct can gear up an animal with a series of responses. This is beneficial for animals with brief life expectancy, and with little or no parental care. This type of behaviour develops gradually in the species. For example:

  • (i) Honey bees inherit the ability to form wing muscles and wings for flight. They inherit the propensity to fly towards flowers to look for nectar and pollen.
  • (ii) Behaviour of digger wasp is instinctive; but it does learn specific things throughout its short life, such as locality of each of its nests, where it has to return after searching.
Learning behaviour

This kind of behaviour depends upon the environmental influence, however, the ability to modify the behaviour depends upon the heredity material. Experience has an obvious influence on this type of behaviour. This type of behaviour depends on the selection operating throughout the history of the individual (during one’s life-time) so as to help the organism in its adaptability in the given environment.

Learning can equip an animal with a set of adaptive responses to its environment. This is advantageous for those animals -which have a long life expectancy and have adult care so that they can modify the behaviour by previous experiences. This kind of behaviour evolves throughout the life process of the individual but the ability to find out depends upon the hereditary basis of the individual. For example:

  • (i) Conditioned reflex type I, in case of dogs where pets find out to drool on the ringing of bell alone.
  • (ii) Trial and error learning in case of the cat, when it discovers to push, the lever to unlock of the cage.
  • (iii) Crawling snail on a sheet of glass, finds out that tapping has no damaging effect and ceases to react after a few early responses.
Further Reading:  Biological Method for Solving a Biological Problem

Darwin (1859) was the first to propose an objective definition of instincts in terms of animal behaviour. He treated instincts as complex reflexes comprised of units compatible with the mechanisms of inheritance, and therefore an item of natural selection, that had developed together with the other aspects of life. Therefore, instinctive behaviour belongs to one’s inherited structure by which the individual responses to a particular stimulus. This action is similar in members of a species.

All animals inherit specific responses which equip them to live having capabilities like walking, moving running and eating, etc.

The early ethologists (Uexkull 1934, Lorenz 1935) believed that animals often react instinctively to specific though typically complicated stimuli. Such stimuli came to be called “sign stimuli”.

A sign stimulus is a part of stimulus configuration and might be a reasonably basic part. For instance, a male three-spined stickleback fish has a characteristic red belly when in reproducing condition. This is a sign stimulus’ that generates aggression in other territorial males.

Instincts gear up an animal with a specific response to a specific stimulus, hence allowing it to adjust to its environment. Learning, on the other hand, depends on the experiences in one’s own life but for this to take place, depends upon the development and growth of the nervous system of that animal. So, the higher animals have a greater level of learning. Lower animals because of badly developed systems to respond to a particular stimulus discover extremely gradually, and even in some cases do not have the capability to modify or change their instinctive behaviour.

The selective responses to stimuli suggested that there needs to be some built-in system by which sign stimuli were recognized. This system came to be called the innate releasing mechanism (IRM). The important element of this concept is that the mechanism is imagined as being inherent, that is, both the acknowledgement of the sign stimulus and the resulting response to it are inborn and characteristics of the species.

Further Reading:  Nucleus -Definition, Structure and Functions

Instinct can gear up an animal with a series of responses. This is important for animals with short life expectancy and with little or no adult care. For example, a female digger wasp (Ammophila adriaansei) prepares a nest, captures caterpillars, eliminates them by sting, puts them in the nest, lays eggs on them and then closes the nest. After doing all this, she dies.

The larvae after emerging from the eggs, begin feeding on caterpillars killed by their mother before death and grow to digger wasps. All this is completed within a couple of weeks and is done by instincts of digger wasp, which might be responding to perception of a caterpillar (the possible sign stimulus) in different methods.

Quick Quiz

The inherited behaviour is called

Answer: Instinct

The change of behaviour by life experiences is called

Answer: Learning

The attachment or attention of a younger animal towards another animal or object firstly it sees is called

Answer: Imprinting

The use of cognitive or mental processes to associate experiences and solve problem is called

Answer: Insight

The non-associative learning in which response decreases to repeated or continuous stimulation is called

Answer: Habituation

The study of the evolution of social behaviour is called

Answer: Sociobiology