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Animal Behavior

by 이화여자대학교 - Ewha Womans University

This course material is only available in the iTunes U app on iPhone or iPad.

Course Description


          One hot day last fall, when it still felt like summer, I was walking along an alley near my apartment when I saw a dragonfly banging the bonnet of a blue car with its tail. This behavior was very familiar to me: it’s an egg-laying behavior (Here is a video clip of a dragonfly laying eggs: Dragonfly females typically lack functional ovipositors and deposit their eggs directly onto the surface of the water. Under the blazing sun, the bonnets were like hot frying pans. My gosh! The eggs must have been vaporized immediately when they touched the metal surface. My guess was that the dragonfly female was somehow mistaking the car bonnet for the surface of the water.
          I believe that understanding what animals do and why is the best way to help them. Thus, the goal of this course is to introduce some basic concepts in animal behavior and to help you to learn to interpret why and how animals do what they do. Hopefully, some of you might someday design car bonnets so that dragonflies know not to lay their eggs on them.
          I am Yikweon Jang, a professor in the department of Life Sciences at Ewha University. My broad research interests are in animal communication, with a particular emphasis on acoustic communication in insects, frogs, and birds. I want this class to be interesting and challenging for each of you, and hope that it stimulates your curiosity about the living world around you.

Course Description

          This course is an introduction to the study of animal behavior. The unifying theme of this course is evolutionary, examining how behavior contributes to the survival and reproduction of organisms through evolution by means of natural and sexual selection. This course will focus on ultimate explanations of animal behavior with some attention or proximate mechanisms. The ultimate explanations typically concern “why animals behave the way they do,” whereas the proximate mechanisms examine “how animals behave the way they do.” The key topics covered in this course include natural selection and evolution, genes and the environment, animal learning, foraging behavior, predatory-prey interactions, evolution of sex, sexual selection, mating systems, animal communication, habitat selection and migration, social behaviors, and finally human behaviors. Students in this course are exposed to the process of scientific study through the field of animal behavior and to reading the primary literature of animal behavior.

          My teaching approach consists of introduction to a topic with relevant examples, basic theories, and recent developments within this topic. I like to approach a topic that I am going to teach by first introducing examples relevant to the topic. I try to draw examples that are familiar, interesting, sometimes crazy, using multi-media. Discussion groups are valuable for me as well as the students, allowing feedback and further exploration of subjects from lectures. Then I present basic theories behind both the examples and the topic that I am going to teach. I also cover classical papers on the topic. Finally, I provide recent developments in the primary literature on the topic and try to connect other conceptual issues.
          This course is designed for upper-level undergraduate students who want to better understand the mechanisms and evolution of animal behavior. Students who are taking this course should have completed the introductory biology courses. Through the readings, videos, discussions, assignments, students in this course will have opportunities to develop content knowledge about animal behavior.

Course Objectives/Expected Outcomes

These objectives of this course are for you to
  • understand evolution by natural selection and how selection has shaped the behavior of animals
  • understand the scientific methods for research in animal behavior, including formulating hypotheses, experiments, and interpretation of data.
Upon completing this course, students should be able to
  • comprehend the key theories of evolution by natural selection
  • demonstrate current knowledge of major concepts in animal behavior
  • develop the ability of applying the scientific method to investigating animal behavior
  • critically evaluate research studies in animal behavior.
Animal Behavior
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