Questions tagged [ethology]

The study of animal behaviour.

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Dead caterpillars on the floor in the morning

I keep seeing dead/half-alive caterpillars on the floor in the morning and I'm just wondering what is going on? There are plants near them but the caterpillars are always around 1 meter away from the ...
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Do animals feel emotions, or display empathy? [closed]

Since we can't know much of what's going on inside an animal's brain, can there still be a consensus among zoologists on whether animals feel emotions, display empathy, care, etc.? Or is it disputed? ...
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The “truce of the watering hole” — is it completely discredited?

In short, the idea comes from Kipling that animals observe a sort of truce around watering holes and prey animals do not have to be on guard (as much?) from predators in the vicinity. I have read ...
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Why do sparrows jump instead of walk when they are not flying?

I want to talk about sparrows, one of the most common birds around the world. I noticed that when one slowly walks into them (so that they are not frightened enough to fly away), these tiny birds ...
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The emergence of Phengaris butterflies from ant nests

The butterflies of the Phengaris genus (also known as Maculinea) are known to be brood parasitic. During the fourth instar, the caterpillars leave their food plant and mimic ant larvae, causing the ...
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Squirrel nest construction

I've often wondered how squirrels -- specifically, eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) make their nests. Specifically, I've been curious about how they "weave" everything together to make ...
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Do any non-human species have juveniles that cannot communicate with adults?

Human babies take 1+ years to begin learning how to speak (though sign language can be learned a bit earlier1). I know that cries, yells, and other non-linguistic sound are a simple form of ...
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What happens to an ant colony when the queen dies?

Does the colony collapse? Do workers keep following the last orders? Or can future queens replace the dead one? I'm guessing this might also depend on each specific sub-species.
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Are there any parasites that alter human behavior in a self destructive way?

There seems to be quite a few examples of parasites taking over the behavior of insects in a way that leads to the death of the host. A couple of examples include: Spinochordodes tellinii: A ...
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The primary source for Erich von Holst research for minnow forebrain and shoaling

I am trying to find the primary source of information about the experiments of Eric von Holst, mentioned by Konrad Lorenz in the book “Das sogenannte Böse: Zur Naturgeschichte der Aggression”/“On ...
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What do butterflies eat?

I found a beautiful scarce-swallowtail butterfly in my storeroom, but it was kind of frozen and couldn't fly away. So, I put it on my terrace in the sun. After a little bit, it flew a few meters away ...
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What's the technical terminology for call-and-respond type behaviour?

The groups of some species such as water birds display a behavior that once out of line-of-sight a member will periodically initiate an interaction by make some type of sound, which will be followed ...
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Do animals exhibit handedness (paw-ness?) preference?

I have been observing my cat and found that when confronted with an unknown item, she will always use her front left paw to touch it. This has me wondering if animals exhibit handedness like humans ...
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Why do earthworms surface after a rain?

Googling, I find two different explanations for why earthworms tend to surface after a rain. This page from UCSB, for example, gives both answers, contradicting itself: The first explanation is ...
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Where do birds and squirrels go to die?

This may sound like a silly question, but I have been wondering about this for a while. I live in a suburban neighborhood with a lot of trees. A lot of trees means birds and squirrels. You can hear ...
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Predatory animal tracking methods

As far as I know, humans are the only animals that use visual references to track prey that is not immediately visible to them. Do any other animals do this? I'm not referring to stalking prey ...
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Why do we like to touch fluffy things?

I read this article but it didn't explain much. Is the fact people like to cuddle pets with fur connected anyhow with our past when our ancestors had fur as well - and therefore could evolve an ...
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Why are children so violent, compared to other adolescent animals, when they play?

When children play it is frequent that someone starts crying, suffers minor injuries and that they are intentionally mean towards each other (e.g., bite, pull hair, throws sand, pushes someone so they ...
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Can beavers control the direction a tree falls?

We humans can easily control the direction a tree falls by making a number of strategic cuts, essentially creating a hinge: This prevents trees from falling on equipment and people and sets them up ...
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Do animals exist (for example ostriches, chimps, etc.) that develop the need to mate with humans if they are soley raised and socialized by humans?

I just watched a German talk show "Nachtstudio" with the title "Die Graugans und der Mensch" (Gosling and People) about the legacy of the famous ethologist and Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz (https:/...
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Can Chilopoda “vocalize” or produce sound for the express purpose of communication, as opposed to sound as a byproduct of other movements?

Is there any species of Chilopoda that can "vocalize" or or otherwise produce sound for the express purpose of communication, as opposed to sounds it might create as a byproduct of other movements ...
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Lions protecting girl in Ethopia — how plausible is it that they understood situation?

Several years ago we read of a girl who was apparently threatened by humans being protected by lions who chases off the males and stayed with the girl. Explanations like, "her crying resembled that of ...
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Why do some ant workers still wander at night?

As far as I have seen, the vast majority of workers in colonies of diurnal, non-nomadic species return to their nests and remain there at night. The colonies seem to forage largely during the day. ...
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Do birds grieve and feel emotion?

Crows are surprisingly clever with tool making/use and even understanding displacement water over sand! Clearly there's some relatively high level cognitive processes going on up in those avian brains....
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Why squirrel behaviour varies greatly throughout India?

Common squirrels seen in India, probably Indian palm squirrels; seem to have drastic different behaviour. And all squirrels of a definite locality, behave in a very consistently same whay. That seems ...
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Large congregation of birds?

This year in October, I saw a lot of robins, male and female, finches and chickadees, and geese flying south. Surprisingly I didn't see many juveniles from previous broods. My guess is that juveniles ...
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Why is wombat excreta shaped like cubes?

I've heard that wombat excreta is cube shaped, but I don't understand how that can happen. Has anyone studied the phenomenon? What would the evolutionary pressure have been to cause this?
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How long before robin no longer needs the nest on my porch?

A robin has made a nest on my porch. Unfortunately, the nest is on my weed wacker which I might want to use at some point this summer. Currently, there are two eggs in the nest. How long will it be ...
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What exactly is this small puffer fish doing and how did it manage to accomplish such a feat?

I recently saw a video on youtube where it shows a puffer fish making intricate designs in the sand: OZZY MAN VIDEO The puffer fish made this design on the sand: What exactly is the puffer ...
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Why do bumble bees run repeatedly into walls?

I have noticed on dozens of occasions that bumble bees will run repeatedly into a wall. Usually between 1 - 5 times before clearing the obstacle or flying away. Credit: Spine Films This source ...
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Is 'disorientation event' a common term among biologists?

On the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources web page about the marine turtle conservation program it says, "When a hatchling sea turtle is attracted away from the ocean towards a direct or ...
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For how long can a raven stay airborne (a week or more)?

I'm wondering for how long a raven can stay continuously airborne, if strained to do so? If it makes a difference, I'm mostly interested in the Common raven, Corvus corax. Are there for instance any ...
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Life cycle of Ascaris worms

Why do Ascaris larva move to the epiglottis from the lungs only to come down with food to the small intestine and become an adult?
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Do jackdaws help each other against enemies/predators?

Do jackdaws help each other out when one member of the flock is caught by a natural enemy? I'm asking this question, because I have seen other corvids do it.
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Crow branch pecking behaviour

I was walking through a small park when two crows started cawing at me, and followed me, flying from tree-to-tree as I walked. I speculate that this is a territorial or protective behaviour, but what ...
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Why do snails come out after the rain?

Many times, when there is rain after a long time, snails come out afterwards, and you can see snails and slugs everywhere! I have two questions: Why do they come out after the rain? Where are they ...
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How do animals learns seductional behaviour?

I was curious how the gender behaviour, the male role or female role, is known in mammals. Do mammals instinctively know how to do seduce the opposed sex or do the animals learn it from their parents/...
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Why do these earthworms stay between the road lines?

This article shows pictures of earthworms during floods in Texas. The worms ball up, supposedly in order to survive the floods. Photo Credit: Texas Parks And Wildlife Department Can anyone explain ...
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Why are bees attracted to Stag Hides in Lime bath

A friend has some stag hides in lime-water solution. He noticed the stag hides were covered in bees of several different species. He also noticed that the nearby sheep hides in a similar bath have no ...
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Is cannibalism part of mainstream food-chain?

There are some species who sometimes eat their own kinds. Is this cannibalism considered their regular food? Do the link in food-chain for those animals make a loop on themselves? Can this statement: ...
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Why do spinner dolphins spin?

Spinner dolphins have a behavior where they jump out of the water and spin a bunch of times in the air. Wikipedia's article on this just states These spins may serve several functions and doesn't ...
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Do non-human primates have mental disorders like humans?

I was at the zoo today and watched a gorilla pick at a scab on its finger, compulsively, until it started bleeding. Is this OCD or is it just a nervous thing that non-human primates do at the zoo? Do ...
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Do animals suffer from “Human” mental disorders?

It is tragic, but apparently Killer whales and Dolphins can commit suicide too (e.g. here)... This suggests they can become depressed. I wondered whether they were "clinically" depressed like many ...
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Facultative Cannibalism?

I heard about Larger cats eating the cubs. Is it some kind of facultative cannibalism or they can eat there own kind like that? What are the facultative cannibalism present in animal kingdom? What ...
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Why do most animals never seem to evolve over millenia?

People often say, including those with extensive knowledge in biology, that a certain species of animal will evolve in one way or another: From changing environments. Mutations. Possibly even genetic ...
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Do flies avoid infrared light?

If flies avoid IR light, many places can be kept free from flies using IR light. We see insect repellers in many restaurants, but they don't seem to work well. Can IR be a safe & effective ...
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What's the smallest flier that migrates?

Painted ladies and monarchs migrate hundreds of miles (~1.61 hundreds of kms). Are there long distance fliers that are significantly smaller? Dual question: Are fliers' migration distances strictly ...
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Name and Behaviour of Arthropods near a Cactus

Background Story I have a small, old cactus on my sunny, south-facing window sill in southern Germany. Since a few years, small black dots gathered around its pot. At first, I thought the dots were ...
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Is there animal other than human that can recognize distal causes?

We know animals can recognize proximate causes. For example, if animal A hits animal B and injures it then usually animal B is able to associate animal A with his injury. From our everyday experience ...
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Do species other than humans have distinct daily feeding patterns?

I have a general interest in complex adaptive systems and I have found that nature and the organisms within it is a perfect natural case of a rich adaptive system with a lot of possibilities for ...

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