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Biology 353 / Psychology 353

BIOL 353 / PSYC 353
Comparative Behavior

Catalog Entry

BIOL 353 / PSYC 353
Comparative Behavior
Two hours lecture, two hours laboratory.

Prerequisite: PSYC 121; and either BIOL 103 or BIOL 131.  

Study of animal behavior from viewpoints of zoology, ethology and comparative psychology. Topics may include, but are not limited to animal sensory capacities, motor capabilities and coordinating mechanisms; classification of behavioral traits; analysis of instinctive behavior, learned behavior, social behavior, animal communications and evolutionary significance of social organization.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

The study of animal behavior is traditionally divided into two areas:

(1) inquiries into mechanisms underlying behavior, and (2) investigations into the adaptive significance of a particular suite of behaviors. This course will devote approximately equal time to both areas. Possible topics of discussion include:

1. Instincts and learning
2. Development of behavior
3. Behavioral genetics
4. Nervous systems and nerve cells
5. Organization of behavior
6. Evolution of behavior
7. Habitat selection by animals
8. Feeding behavior
9. Antipredator tactics
10. Sexual reproduction and behavioral differences between males and females
11. Social behavior and mating systems


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This course will use several different types of instruction to encourage students to become actively involved in scientific inquiry. Traditional lecture format will be supplemented by informal discussion groups that tackle papers from the primary literature. Laboratories will teach skills of observation, analysis, hypothesis formulation and hypothesis testing.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The primary goal of this course is to learn science by doing science. Students will be expected to take an active part in their education by experiencing many different types of problems associated with scientific inquiry, and being encouraged to resolve these problems as a group, or with help from the instructor. One of the major problems facing behavioral scientists is the difficulty of measuring components of behavior, thus there will be a heavy emphasis on analysis of behavioral patterns. Once students develop some expertise in this area (from readings, discussions and laboratory simulations), they will choose a project that involves analysis of behavior of a particular animal. Projects might be conducted in the field, in the laboratory and/or in a zoo.


Assessment Measures

For the lecture portion of the course, students will be graded on the basis of exams, essays, take-home projects, individual and group papers. For the laboratory portion of the course, students will be required to provide laboratory write-ups, and a report on the final research project of their own design. This diversity of assessment measures will test different types of learning skills including knowledge of requisite vocabulary, understanding of basic concepts, ability to think critically and analyze experiments conducted by other investigators, and an ability to use analytic techniques to design and implement experiments.


Other Course Information

Some of the laboratories may be held in the Computer Learning Laboratory of the Biology Department.


Review and Approval


01/2011