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Why Study Animal Behavior?

Throughout the years I have defended why we should even bother to study animal behavior (you all know who you are). More and more I feel that I have to justify this part of science by relating it to supporting the human race in some form or fashion. For those of you who only know the foundation of science...I will discuss it in this manner. For all the your are in science. This is something so completely new to you and so very complex that you can't begin to grasp how it is not just sitting in a tree and taking notes. Granted, I understand that observation is part of of the process whether it be in a lab or in the jungle..we should be envious of researchers working in the jungle, not berating them. Just as medical researchers will watch the tissue or maybe even mice...this is all part of the bigger picture.

So why study animal behavior that is not a direct link to fighting cancer? For the knowledge of course, young grasshopper. All matter how inconsequential in the beginning, is a piece of a puzzle to a larger picture. Remember that the next time you are standing on top of your high horse thinking that you can see higher than all others. You are just one of many...and no man stands alone in science.

Consider the following questions that could apply to almost any larger question.
1. What is the causal relationship between the organisms genes and it's behavior?
2. Is the trait to some extent inherited from the organisms parents?
3. How has the development of the organism from a single cell to a multimillion-celled adult affected its behavioral abilities?
4. What stimuli trigger the response, and how are these stimuli detected?

These questions are proximate questions...they ask the "how" questions. But we know that science is much more than just figuring out a single mechanism. We must also understand the 'why' questions. At this point you should be asking the following...
1. Has the behavior evolved over time?
2. If so, why did the changes occur?
3. What was the original step in the historical process that led to the current behavior?
4. What is the purpose, the function, of the behavior?
5. Does the behavior help individuals overcome obstacles to survive and reproduce?

This my friend is Natural why study animal behavior...because it leads us back to the bigger picture...why things happen. By choosing a behavior and studying it so completely..we start to open doors that apply to many bigger concepts that are not so specific to one single organism or one single trait. And that is why behavior is not just some "other" science beneath 'real' researchers. Without both pieces...each other would be incomplete!!

posted by Sonya @ 12/18/2006 06:18:00 PM,


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