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Author Topic: Do animals have any control over instinctive behaviors?  (Read 3583 times)

Offline EatsRainbows

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I'm aware this may be rather debatable, i don't think that it has as of yet been widely agreed as to the state of awareness that any animal has? Well I would be interested in what anyone thinks about the following:

I have been working in a zoo. We have an ostrich there who is very territorial. He does what my supervisor calls "his war dance" lol  :) Well i think it is clearly meant to be a threat, he will come over to you and ruffle up his feathers and do this little side to side dance with his head and neck back (very cute though don't tell him I'm not taking him seriously  ;) )

What I've noticed is that 1. He will come right over to you until he is right in front of you before he begins, he also does not begin it unless there is an observer, while he is 'dancing' his eyelids come down a bit. 2. If you walk away mid dance he will continue doing it!

The peacocks seem to be similar, the males will start performing for the females but if the females wander off mid dance the male keeps on going until he is done.

It appears to me that, certainly the ostrich at least looks to me as if he enters some sort of 'trance'. Its as if the behavior is triggered in an instinctive way by a stimuli, and once it has been initiated it will not stop until it has been completed, even if the stimuli has gone. Does anyone agree or disagree with this 'hypothesis'?

If I am by some chance right in any way, i wonder if there is currently any understanding of the brain processes involved in such automatic behavior?
« Last Edit: 30/12/2009 05:29:21 by EatsRainbows »


 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Do animals have any control over instinctive behaviors?
« Reply #1 on: 31/12/2009 23:35:49 »
I was thinking that for a behavior to persist following removal of the stimulus, i think it would have to be under hormonal control? Hormones do linger so i suppose that could be a legitimate suggestion.

In animals that do not have a nervous system, movements i think are hormonally controlled, so thus removal of a stimulus would have no effect upon the behavior being completed, though this is very simple behavior such as a star fish moving away from touch and I'm wondering if there is any such persistent behavior that more complex seen in animals that do have a nervous system, such as this ostrich behavior mentioned above.....

It could be the nervous system that was initially triggered but it persists due to hormones....?? or am I being too creative again?  :P
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Do animals have any control over instinctive behaviors?
« Reply #2 on: 02/01/2010 07:22:05 »
With regards to learning to pick the lower number, that sounds very much like classical conditioning to me, they could fairly easily learn the association. (I used classical conditioning once on my dog to rid him of his fear of chickens lol  :D ) but yes the later part of that study involving inability to learn to act against their initial response does very much sound as if they were having some sort of condradiction in their cognition and instinct.

With regards to the second study, would you go so far as to just give this chimp the credit of sheer cleverness? The reason i suggest this is because I recall reading a story of a chimp in a zoo who was collecting stones from the creek in his enclosure while no one was watching, stock piling them and often carving them into disc shapes and then later hurling them at zoo visitors! In the article i initially read, it was stated that if he became aware he was  being watched while collecting stones he would quickly try to hide this behavior. That suggests he was aware he was doing something 'naughty' or at least trying to be devious! This story shows a huge degree of self awareness, ability to plan for the future and thus aware of space and time, problem solving and so on.

Heres one version of it: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=chimpanzee-plans-throws-stones-zoo

An idea came to me at random just now and i think i have found the answer to what i was originally getting at. Its called a fixed action pattern. I have as yet to attempt to find out if this ostrich 'dance' could fit into this category but it sounds as if it could, they do have a very small brain! lol And i intend to look further into the neural processes of it.

goose that continues to 'roll' egg that has been removed:
Quote
Another well known case is the classic experiments by Tinbergen and Lorenz on the Graylag Goose. Like similar waterfowl, it will roll a displaced egg near its nest back to the others with its beak. The sight of the displaced egg triggers this mechanism. If the egg is taken away, the animal continues with the behavior, pulling its head back as if an imaginary egg is still being maneuvered by the underside of its beak.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_action_pattern
« Last Edit: 02/01/2010 07:24:14 by EatsRainbows »
 

Offline EatsRainbows

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Do animals have any control over instinctive behaviors?
« Reply #3 on: 03/01/2010 03:43:49 »
lol!!!!!!! Well that would be a frustrating sort of existence you'd think  ;)

Well I'm fascinated by the question, at what point in evolution do animals gain some level of independent thought? I do think 'higher' animals do, i have no evidence for the belief its just my sense after a life of spending a lot of time with them.

Perhaps it could increase slowly up the food chain together with retention of some degree of instinct? That is if one considers that they do have any independent thought at all.

Plenty of animals do have instinctive behavior that seems to be programmed into them. Eels for example i was interested to recently learn will live to 60 or 70 years old. When they are about to die they migrate some 2000 miles where they spawn, die, and the young ones return along the same route to replace them. This must be under genetic control, a biological clock that says "i am about to die" and then tells them where to go. As to how genes could control this, perhaps that is not yet known? Certainly blows my mind!
 

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Do animals have any control over instinctive behaviors?
« Reply #3 on: 03/01/2010 03:43:49 »

 

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