Animal Behaviors

Mauria Kurian

What are Behaviors?

Behavior is defined as the way an organism reacts to changes that occur internally or externally.

Natural v. Nurtured Behavior

  • Natural behavior occurs after an organism is born but has no influence from the environment. Ex: Communication between animals, such as barking from dogs, is a natural behavior.
  • Nurtured behaviors occur after an organism is born and development is affected by the environment. Ex: Birds learn how to fly at a young age from the mature bird.

Innate Behavior

Innate behavior is behavior that exists from birth and does not require practice. Some examples are:

  • Fish- Swimming
  • Dogs- Drool when exposed to food
  • Sea turtles- Crawl towards the water as soon as they hatch
New Born, Baby Sea Turtles Race to the Ocean!

Fixed Action Plan

Behavior that has not been learned but is triggered by a stimulus. The organism can usually perform this behavior to completion. Yawning is a very common example in humans. Other examples are:

  • Mating dances in birds
  • Egg-rolling and Geese- If a goose sees an egg rolling away from its nest it will immediately retrieve it with a specific action.


This behavior is responsible for an animals ability to find, capture, and consume food.

  • Bears capture their food by going into a stream and catching fish with its mouth.
  • Lynx primarily eat snowshoe hares.


A change in someone's behavior due to experience.

  • Dogs can be taught to perform to different commands.
  • Animals can eat something that may not be god for their body and will never eat it again.


Developmental changes that occur by a signal.


  • The development of sexual behavior in animals occurs as it matures.
  • As an animal experiences new things it is maturing and learning.


An organism's decreasing response to stimulus with more and more exposure to it.

  • Animals in entertainment fields go through this. Killer whales at Sea World become used to the ways of training instead of rebelling.


The process by which certain animals form attachments at early stage of life.

  • Some birds can form attachments to other animals that aren't their mothers.

duck and dog (imprinting)

Classical Conditioning

A neutral stimulus that signals an unconditioned stimulus begins to produce a response that anticipates and prepares for the unconditioned stimulus.

  • Training dogs

Operant Conditioning

Type of learning where punishment is enforced to do or not to do an action. Training animals for the circus occurs with operant conditioning.


Play is when an organism acts as if the situation is a game instead of acting serious.

Kinesis v. Taxis

Kinesis and taxis are movements in response to a stimulus. However, kinesis is not directed to the stimulus. Here are a few examples:

  • Kinesis- When an animal is uncomfortable due to humidity it moves around to a place where it is comfortable.
  • Taxis- Geese flying south for the winter


The movement of a group of animals during a certain period of time for feeding or breeding.

  • Whales move to warm waters to reproduce during the fall time.
  • Freshwater eels move to salty waters like the Sargasso sea to reproduce.


Actions done regularly in a set manner. Mating rituals are the most common rituals in the animal kingdom.


Behavior that causes a change in behavior in another animal.

  • Photuris fireflies mimick the female response of the prey species the "femme fatale" Photuris female lures in males and then attacks them.

Animal Behavior - CrashCourse Biology #25