Being Prey Analysis

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Being Prey Analysis



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Being Prey

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Neuroethology is an integrative approach to the study of animal behavior that draws upon several disciplines. Its approach stems from the theory that animals' nervous systems have evolved to address problems of sensing and acting in certain environmental niches and that their nervous systems are best understood in the context of the problems they have evolved to solve. In accordance with Krogh's principle , neuroethologists often study animals that are "specialists" in the behavior the researcher wishes to study e.

Often central to addressing questions in neuroethology are comparative methodologies, drawing upon knowledge about related organisms' nervous systems, anatomies, life histories, behaviors and environmental niches. While it is not unusual for many types of neurobiology experiments to give rise to behavioral questions, many neuroethologists often begin their research programs by observing a species' behavior in its natural environment. Other approaches to understanding nervous systems include the systems identification approach, popular in engineering.

The idea is to stimulate the system using a non-natural stimulus with certain properties. The system's response to the stimulus may be used to analyze the operation of the system. Such an approach is useful for linear systems, but the nervous system is notoriously nonlinear , and neuroethologists argue that such an approach is limited. This argument is supported by experiments in the auditory system, which show that neural responses to complex sounds, like social calls, can not be predicted by the knowledge gained from studying the responses due to pure tones one of the non-natural stimuli favored by auditory neurophysiologists. This is because of the non-linearity of the system. Modern neuroethology is largely influenced by the research techniques used. Neural approaches are necessarily very diverse, as is evident through the variety of questions asked, measuring techniques used, relationships explored, and model systems employed.

Techniques utilized since include the use of intracellular dyes, which make maps of identified neurons possible, and the use of brain slices, which bring vertebrate brains into better observation through intracellular electrodes Hoyle Currently, other fields toward which neuroethology may be headed include computational neuroscience , molecular genetics , neuroendocrinology and epigenetics. The existing field of neural modeling may also expand into neuroethological terrain, due to its practical uses in robotics.

In all this, neuroethologists must use the right level of simplicity to effectively guide research towards accomplishing the goals of neuroethology. Critics of neuroethology might consider it a branch of neuroscience concerned with 'animal trivia'. Though neuroethological subjects tend not to be traditional neurobiological model systems i. Drosophila , C. The discipline of neuroethology has also discovered and explained the only vertebrate behavior for which the entire neural circuit has been described: the electric fish jamming avoidance response. Beyond its conceptual contributions, neuroethology makes indirect contributions to advancing human health.

By understanding simpler nervous systems, many clinicians have used concepts uncovered by neuroethology and other branches of neuroscience to develop treatments for devastating human diseases. Neuroethology owes part of its existence to the establishment of ethology as a unique discipline within zoology. Although animal behavior had been studied since the time of Aristotle — BC , it was not until the early twentieth century that ethology finally became distinguished from natural science a strictly descriptive field and ecology. The main catalysts behind this new distinction were the research and writings of Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen. Konrad Lorenz was born in Austria in , and is widely known for his contribution of the theory of fixed action patterns FAPs : endogenous, instinctive behaviors involving a complex sequence of movements that are triggered "released" by a certain kind of stimulus.

This sequence always proceeds to completion, even if the original stimulus is removed. It is also species-specific and performed by nearly all members. Lorenz constructed his famous "hydraulic model" to help illustrate this concept, as well as the concept of action specific energy, or drives. Niko Tinbergen was born in the Netherlands in and worked closely with Lorenz in the development of the FAP theory; their studies focused on the egg retrieval response of nesting geese.

Tinbergen performed extensive research on the releasing mechanisms of particular FAPs, and used the bill-pecking behavior of baby herring gulls as his model system. This led to the concept of the supernormal stimulus. Tinbergen is also well known for his four questions that he believed ethologists should be asking about any given animal behavior; among these is that of the mechanism of the behavior, on a physiological, neural and molecular level, and this question can be thought of in many regards as the keystone question in neuroethology. Tinbergen also emphasized the need for ethologists and neurophysiologists to work together in their studies, a unity that has become a reality in the field of neuroethology.

Unlike behaviorism , which studies animals' reactions to non-natural stimuli in artificial, laboratory conditions, ethology sought to categorize and analyze the natural behaviors of animals in a field setting. Similarly, neuroethology asks questions about the neural bases of naturally occurring behaviors, and seeks to mimic the natural context as much as possible in the laboratory. Although the development of ethology as a distinct discipline was crucial to the advent of neuroethology, equally important was the development of a more comprehensive understanding of neuroscience. Charles Sherrington, who was born in Great Britain in , is famous for his work on the nerve synapse as the site of transmission of nerve impulses, and for his work on reflexes in the spinal cord.

His research also led him to hypothesize that every muscular activation is coupled to an inhibition of the opposing muscle. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in along with Lord Edgar Adrian who made the first physiological recordings of neural activity from single nerve fibers. Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley born and , respectively, in Great Britain , are known for their collaborative effort to understand the production of action potentials in the giant axons of squid.

The pair also proposed the existence of ion channels to facilitate action potential initiation, and were awarded the Nobel Prize in for their efforts. As a result of this pioneering research, many scientists then sought to connect the physiological aspects of the nervous and sensory systems to specific behaviors. These scientists — Karl von Frisch , Erich von Holst , and Theodore Bullock — are frequently referred to as the "fathers" of neuroethology. Ewert, D. Ingle and R. Capranica, held at the University of Kassel in Hofgeismar, Germany cf.

Its first president was Theodore H. The society has met every three years since its first meeting in Tokyo in Its membership draws from many research programs around the world; many of its members are students and faculty members from medical schools and neurobiology departments from various universities. Modern advances in neurophysiology techniques have enabled more exacting approaches in an ever-increasing number of animal systems, as size limitations are being dramatically overcome. Survey of the most recent congress of the ISN meeting symposia topics gives some idea of the field's breadth:.

Neuroethology can help create advancements in technology through an advanced understanding of animal behavior. Model systems were generalized from the study of simple and related animals to humans. For example, the neuronal cortical space map discovered in bats, a specialized champion of hearing and navigating, elucidated the concept of a computational space map. In addition, the discovery of the space map in the barn owl led to the first neuronal example of the Jeffress model. This understanding is translatable to understanding spatial localization in humans, a mammalian relative of the bat. Today, knowledge learned from neuroethology are being applied in new technologies.

For example, Randall Beer and his colleagues used algorithms learned from insect walking behavior to create robots designed to walk on uneven surfaces Beer et al. Neuroethology and technology contribute to one another bidirectionally. Neuroethologists seek to understand the neural basis of a behavior as it would occur in an animal's natural environment but the techniques for neurophysiological analysis are lab-based, and cannot be performed in the field setting. This dichotomy between field and lab studies poses a challenge for neuroethology. From the neurophysiology perspective, experiments must be designed for controls and objective rigor, which contrasts with the ethology perspective — that the experiment be applicable to the animal's natural condition, which is uncontrolled, or subject to the dynamics of the environment.

An early example of this is when Walter Rudolf Hess developed focal brain stimulation technique to examine a cat's brain controls of vegetative functions in addition to other behaviors. Even though this was a breakthrough in technological abilities and technique, it was not used by many neuroethologists originally because it compromised a cat's natural state, and, therefore, in their minds, devalued the experiments' relevance to real situations.

When intellectual obstacles like this were overcome, it led to a golden age of neuroethology, by focusing on simple and robust forms of behavior, and by applying modern neurobiological methods to explore the entire chain of sensory and neural mechanisms underlying these behaviors Zupanc New technology allows neuroethologists to attach electrodes to even very sensitive parts of an animal such as its brain while it interacts with its environment. Since then even indirect technological advancements such as battery-powered and waterproofed instruments have allowed neuroethologists to mimic natural conditions in the lab while they study behaviors objectively.

In addition, the electronics required for amplifying neural signals and for transmitting them over a certain distance have enabled neuroscientists to record from behaving animals [7] performing activities in naturalistic environments. Emerging technologies can complement neuroethology, augmenting the feasibility of this valuable perspective of natural neurophysiology. Another challenge, and perhaps part of the beauty of neuroethology, is experimental design. The value of neuroethological criteria speak to the reliability of these experiments, because these discoveries represent behavior in the environments in which they evolved. Neuroethologists foresee future advancements through using new technologies and techniques, such as computational neuroscience, neuroendocrinology, and molecular genetics that mimic natural environments.

In , Akira Watanabe and Kimihisa Takeda discovered the behavior of the jamming avoidance response in the knifefish Eigenmannia sp. In collaboration with T. Bullock and colleagues, the behavior was further developed. Finally, the work of W. Heiligenberg expanded it into a full neuroethology study by examining the series of neural connections that led to the behavior. Eigenmannia is a weakly electric fish that can generate electric discharges through electrocytes in its tail. Furthermore, it has the ability to electrolocate by analyzing the perturbations in its electric field.

However, when the frequency of a neighboring fish's current is very close less than 20 Hz difference to that of its own, the fish will avoid having their signals interfere through a behavior known as Jamming Avoidance Response. If the neighbor's frequency is higher than the fish's discharge frequency, the fish will lower its frequency, and vice versa. The sign of the frequency difference is determined by analyzing the "beat" pattern of the incoming interference which consists of the combination of the two fish's discharge patterns.

Neuroethologists performed several experiments under Eigenmannia ' s natural conditions to study how it determined the sign of the frequency difference. They manipulated the fish's discharge by injecting it with curare which prevented its natural electric organ from discharging. Widespread use of an anti-inflammatory drug in livestock led to the rapid decline of vultures in South Asia. The birds died after eating carcasses, shrinking the population of some species by 95 percent in recent decades.

In East Asia, many raptor species are long-distance migrants: They breed in northern China, Mongolia or Russia and travel down the eastern coast of China to spend summers in Southeast Asia or India. But eastern China is also the most populous and urban part of the country, with steep development pressures. A study in the journal Biological Conservation found that 52 percent of all raptor species worldwide are decreasing in population. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Please wait for the page to reload. If the page does not reload within 5 seconds, please refresh the page. This profile is in addition to your subscription and website login.

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