How do you do? How do animals do? And why? How does a twelve gram willow warbler find its way from Nyeri to Njutånger? Why does it taste so good with toxic substances? Why are swans so faithful while reed buntings are anything but? Why are socially isolated individuals more often sick? Or is it rather that sick individuals more often are lonely? Or that stressed individuals are both sick and lonely?
If you think these questions are interesting to think about and try to find different answers to, then you have found the right course.
In this course, you gain knowledge of, and curiosity for, animal behaviours, their mechanisms, and their original or current adaptive functions. Behavioural traits comprise the most complex gene-environment interactions in nature and many of the most fascinating products of evolution by natural selection. Prominent examples include social and sexual communication and organization, predation and foraging, orientation, cooperation, as well as human nature and culture. The course integrates ethology, behavioural ecology and biological psychology, with emphasis on evolutionary explanations (phylogeny, selection and adaptation), but also central genetic and neurobiological mechanisms, and applications in e.g. animal care, conservation biology, and ecotoxicology.
Through a combination of lectures, group discussions and literature projects, the main theme is to illustrate how animal behaviours, disregarding complexity (from frowning to fraternization) or heritability (from dexterity to depression), can be explored with regard to all of ‘Tinbergen’s four questions’: Mechanism, Ontogeny, Phylogeny, and Adaptation.