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Animal Behavior

Code: 44559
ECTS: 6.0
Lecturers in charge: izv. prof. dr. sc. Zoran Tadić
izv. prof. dr. sc. Duje Lisičić
Lecturers: Dijana Beneta , mag. oecol. et prot. nat. - Practicum
dr. sc. Marko Glogoški - Practicum
Tomislav Gojak , mag. biol. exp. - Practicum
izv. prof. dr. sc. Duje Lisičić - Practicum
Take exam: Studomat
English level:


All teaching activities will be held in Croatian. However, foreign students in mixed groups will have the opportunity to attend additional office hours with the lecturer and teaching assistants in English to help master the course materials. Additionally, the lecturer will refer foreign students to the corresponding literature in English, as well as give them the possibility of taking the associated exams in English.

1. komponenta

Lecture typeTotal
Lectures 30
Practicum 30
* Load is given in academic hour (1 academic hour = 45 minutes)

After completing this course, the students will be able to:

1. Understand various components of animal behaviour, ranging from proximate to ultimate causes.
2. Understand how evolutionary processes shape the behaviour.
3. Understand how various physiological processes influence behaviour.
4. Understand how learning and cognition helps the animals to solve complex behavioural situations.
5. Apply the hypothesis-driven approach to the study of real problems in the laboratory and in the field and analyze the collected data.
6. Critically evaluate modern literature in animal behaviour.


1 - Introduction to the animal behaviour: Why do we study animal behaviour; Animal behaviour and other scientific disciplines; History of the study of animal behaviour; Animal behaviour in the 20th century: Classical ethology, behaviorism, behavioural ecology and sociobiology, neuroethology; Modern trends in behavioural sciences; The scientific method in the study of behaviour; Conceptual, empirical and theoretical approach to the study of animal behaviour; Field vs. laboratory research in animal behaviour.

2 - Genes and behaviour: Behavioural genetics and its goals; How do genes influence behaviour; Methods of behavioural genetics: Artificial selection, hybridization, natural mutants; Molecular methods of behavioural genetics - the advent of sociogenomics; Behavioural genetics in action: The for gene in bees; Genes, environment and behavioural variation; Epigenetics and behaviour.

3 - Natural selection, evolution and behaviour: What is evolution and how does it act on behaviour; The sources of variation; The response of variation to natural selection; Phenotypic variance, its components and their interactions; Fitness and its consequences; How to test the effects of natural selection on behaviour: Comparative vs. experimental vs. theoretical approach. Modeling and the "cost - benefit" analysis of behaviour. Behavioural syndromes and their significance. Evolutionary stable strategies (ESS): Fitness and interactions of animals.

4 - Learning: Definitions of learning; Learning and adaptation; Types of learning in animals: Habituation, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, latent learning, social learning; Cognition in animals. Cognitive abilities of the animals: Current concepts and controversies.

5 - Nerve cells and animal behaviour: Neuroethology, its goals and methods; Neurons and synapses: Transmission of information along and between neurons; Nervous systems and their organization; Sensory processing: Prey-catching in toads, prey location in the barn owl; Neuroethology of predator-prey interactions: Bats vs. moths vs. bats; Motor output: Central pattern generators (CPGs); CPGs and locust flight. CPGs and mammalian walking movements.

6 - Hormones and animal behaviour: Behavioural endocrinology and its goals; Endocrine glands and hormones; How do hormones influence behaviour; Methods of behavioural endocrinology; Organizational and activational actions of hormones; Hormones, behaviour and environment; Examples of complex behaviours influenced by hormones.

7 - Development of behaviour: Spatio-temporal changes in behaviour during life; Physiological and ecological influences on the development of behaviour. Animal play: current research and controversies; Sensitive periods and their significance in the development of behaviour; Filial and sexual imprinting in birds and mammals; Development of bird song: Complex interaction of genes, hormones, nervous system and environment; Role of learning in song development; Sensitive periods in song learning; Species bias and social factors in song learning; Developmental homeostasis.

8 - Migration and spatial distribution of the animals: To stay or to leave; Staying home vs. leaving; Cost and benefits of natal philopatry and dispersal; Sex differences in dispersal; Habitat selection and habitat quality; Habitat search tactics; Habitat selection and conservation; Migration and its consequences; Costs and benefits of migration.

9 - Foraging: Feeding yourself optimally: How and where; Optimal foraging; The diet selection: Simple model; The marginal value theorem: Deciding when to leave the patch. How to eat what you need; Complexity and reality of foraging models: How applicable are the mathematical models; Why predators do not eat all the prey.

10 - Antipredator behaviour: How to avoid being eaten; Camouflage and its evolution; Polymorphism; Warning coloration: The evolution of aposematism; Mimicry and related phenomena; Diverting structures, coloration and behaviour: False heads, autotomy, feigning death and/or injury; Fighting back: Displaying weaponry, increasing body size; Chemical repellents. Group defense: Improved vigilance of the group; the dilution effect, the selfish herd effect, confusion, mobbing behaviour.

11 - Sexual selection and reproductive behaviour: Contemporary view on males and females: Cooperation or fierce battle of the sexes; Intrasexual selection - competition for mates; Intersexual selection - female choice; Evolution of sexual selection: The runaway selection, selection of good genes (the handicap principle), mate choice copying, sensory bias; Cryptic female choice; Physiology, immunity and sexual selection.

12 - Parental care and mating systems: The parental investment and parent-offspring conflict; Allocation of parental resources; Patterns of parental care; Intraspecific brood parasitism; Interspecific brood parasitism: Cuckoo vs. hosts vs. cuckoo. Evolution of interspecific brood parasitism: cuckoos and cowbirds. Mating systems: Definitions and classification; Monogamy, Polygyny, Polyandry; The polygyny threshold model; Specific cases (female defense polygyny, resource defense polygyny).

13 - Sociality and conflict: Why to live in the group; Costs and benefits of social living; Dominance hierarchies; How is dominance determined and maintained; Costs and benefits of being dominant and subordinate; Territoriality: Ideal free distribution and space use; Economics of holding a territory and territory size; Strategies for minimizing costs in territorial defense; Games animal play: The game theory and its role in understanding animal conflicts; "Hawks" vs. "doves" and the prediction of the outcome of the conflict; Asymmetries in contest.

14 - Cooperation, selfishness and altruism: What is altruism; Altruism vs. selfishness; The evolution of altruism: Inclusive fitness and its consequences; Kin selection; How to recognize kin; Reciprocal altruism and its evolution; Manipulation; Cooperation among the animals: Alarm calls, acquiring a mate, cooperative breeding; Eusociality and its evolution.

15 - Communication: Physiology of communication: visual, chemical, electrical, tactile; Functions of communication; Is communication always honest; Signal manipulation; Signals and honesty; Evolution of signals; Evolutionary forces that shape signals and communication; Apes and language.


1 - Describing and quantifying behaviour
2 - Setting up working definitions and measuring observer's reliability
3 - Chermoreception in reptiles
4 - Optimal food foraging
5 - Nonverbal communication in humans
  1. J. Alcock: "Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach, 10th ed.", Sinauer Associates, 2013, ISBN 9780878939664 (http://www.sinauer.com/animal-behavior-an-evolutionary-approach-642.html)
  2. J. Goodenough, B. McGuire, E. Jacob: "Perspectives on Animal Behavior, 3rd ed.", J. Wiley & Sons, 2010, ISBN 9780470045176 (http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-EHEP000020.html)

    P. Monaghan, A. K. Turner: "Animal Behavior Practicals", Association for Study of Animal Behaviour, 1986

    B. Ploger, K. Yasukawa: "Exploring Animal Behavior in Laboratory and Field", Elsevier, 2002, ISBN 9780125583305 (http://www.elsevier.com/books/exploring-animal-behavior-in-laboratory-and-field/ploger/978-0-12-558330-5)

    C. Tillberg, M. Breed, S. Hinners: "Field and Laboratory Exercises in Animal Behavior", Elsevier, Amsterdam, NL, 2007, ISBN 9780123725820 (https://www.elsevier.com/books/field-and-laboratory-exercises-in-animal-behavior/tillberg/978-0-12-372582-0)
2. semester
Izborni predmeti - Regular study - Ecology and Nature Preservation
Izborni predmeti - Regular module - Zoology
Consultations schedule: