How does evolution work? And how does this relate to animal behavior?
To understand the behavior and characteristics of the thinking of animals, you need to have an idea of how they developed. And here you can not do without an understanding of evolution.
What is evolution?
Evolution is a process of the development of wildlife, accompanied by a change in genes, the formation of adaptations to new conditions, and a change in the species as a whole. That is, thanks to evolution, living beings adapt to new conditions, forming new qualities or “removing” harmful and unnecessary.
Why do we need to know about this, you ask. This is important - for example, in order to understand those who live next to us. After all, their behavior and characteristics of thinking are directly related to evolution. In addition, a person, having unraveled the laws of evolution, himself became a “creator”, fixing certain characteristics of living creatures subject to him or eradicating unnecessary ones, and in just a few generations he can change the nature and behavior of domestic animals. So much so that it may seem fantastic.
One of the most famous scientists who studied the thinking and behavior of animals, was the Dutch ethologist Nico Tinbergen, who received the Nobel Prize in 1973 with Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch. He developed not only experiments that made it possible to see how animals solve various problems, but also participated in creating the structure of levels of analysis, thanks to which we can understand the characteristics of thinking and behavior of animals.
In the photo: Nico Tinbergen
How does evolution help understand animal behavior?
Thanks to Nico Tinbergen, we know that there is no single explanation for animal behavior. What does this give us?
For example, we have an aggressive dog. And to understand why it is aggressive, we can consider the issue at 4 levels:
How is behavior formed in phylogenesis (i.e., in the history of a species)? For example, aggression in this breed of dogs was purposefully fixed in the selection process, which means it was passed down from generation to generation.
How is behavior formed in ontogenesis? Perhaps the dog was purposefully trained to show aggression, and she realized that such behavior was rewarded.
What is the adaptive value of behavior? Probably, once with the help of aggression the dog was able to get what she wanted (for example, to be left alone and not to clean her ears), and still uses the proven method, avoiding the unpleasant procedure. Profitable? From a dog’s point of view, yes.
What mechanisms govern behavior? Sometimes for a strong reaction, which may seem inadequate for us, a very weak stimulus is enough - it depends on the internal mechanisms of the living being. One of the most famous internal mechanisms is the hormonal background, which greatly affects behavior.
All 4 levels are important, since understanding each of them helps explain the behavior from the point of view of the others, which means using different methods of interaction and, if necessary, correction.