animal behaviour

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The activities that constitute an animal's response to its external environment. Certain categories of behaviour are seen in all animals (e.g. feeding, reproduction) but these activities involve different movements in different species and develop in different ways. Some movements are highly characteristic of a species (see instinct), whereas others are more variable and depend on the interaction between innate tendencies and learning during the individual's lifetime. Physiologists study how changes in the body (e.g. hormone levels) affect behaviour, psychologists study the mechanisms of learning, and ethologists study the behaviour of the whole animal: how this develops during the individual's lifetime and how it evolved through natural selection (see ethology).

Subjects: Biological Sciences.

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