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Science: Biology: Innate vs Learned Behavior in Animals Life

Updated on July 7, 2012

Innate vs Learned Animal Behavior

Innate Behavior

Innate behavior - Develops independently from the environment context. It is inborn behavior.

Blackcap Bird

The Blackcap breeds in the summer of Germany and then migrates to Spain/Mediterranean areas in winter but instead, recently, that have switched from migrating to Spain, to the United Kingdom. The increase in Blackcaps migrating to the United Kingdom is because of warmer winters which amounts to easier survival. In order to make sure that this behavior is genetic, researchers took hatched he eggs from a Spain migrating bird and a UK migrating bird. When the time came, each tended to migrate to whichever place their parents migrated to suggesting that this is a genetic influenced behavior.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon were introduced into Lake Washington and some of them migrated to Cedar River which while connected, are two very different environments. After 60 years, they no longer interbred because their breeding method has changed. The Washington lake salmon spawn on beaches; the males have heavy bodies so they can hide in deep lake waters which would not be efficient for stream-lining the faster river currents. The Cedar River males have bodies evolved for fast currents (narrow and thin bodies) and females bury their eggs deep at the bottom so they won’t be swept away. This shows how one population being exposed to two different environments after a short time, developed very different bodies to fit their environment.


According to the data on the invertebrate (Woodlice), most of them preferred the chamber with the wet towels (humid) in both trials. That means a that a humid environment leads to better survival chances. The exoskeleton of isopods are waterproof so they are prone to drying out; in order to survive, they search out humid areas.

Learned Behavior

Learned Behavior - Develops from experience.

The process of acquiring new knowledge helps an animal adapt and learn better methods of survival. Sparrows learn better songs from other birds to attract a mate. Many of them like squirrels and parasites learn to hoard food. Grizzly bears learn to catch slippery salmon in rushing rivers. Chimpanzees learned to stick a branch into a termite nest in order to obtain easy food. Grizzles learn from their parents and chimps from trial and error. Learning helps animals obtain food and learn the necessary skills in order to survive.

Pavlov’s experiment to condition dogs was made to change a reflex response. The subject must respond to a stimulus. In Pavlov’s experiment, the stimulus is the food. First the subject is introduced to the neutral stimulus like the bell. Then a period of training follows when the note is play right after food is introduced. After a while, the music note becomes the conditioned stimulus. Now when the bell is rang, the do will salivate even without the food.

Young birds are born with the song of their species, but they can learn to improve on the song through experience. The better singer attracts the mate. Birds kept in a laboratory produced a crude song. After hatching, the birds undergo a memorizing stage when they listen to the songs of adult birds. In the first 100 days, the males may change the song. The 2nd phase is the motor phase when the bird practices the song. When the bird is sexually mature, he will use this song to attract a mate.

Bluegill Sunfish

The larger the Daphnia, the more energy it provides when eaten and they’re all easy to get so the fish must only choose between big vs. small. When the number of Daphnia are scarce, they will eat Daphnia of any size because some food is better than none. When there are a lot of Daphnias, they can be picky and choose the biggest ones. They only did that 57% of the time and it was shown that young Daphnia do not exhibit this behavior as effectively as older more experiences bluegill sunfish so learning also plays a part in this behavior.

Small Mouth Bass

They have to choose between minnows who provide more energy but are hard to catch or crayfish which are easy to catch but has a hard exoskeleton which is harder to digest than the minnows. The goal is to take in as much energy as they can while expending as little as they can to get it


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    • NathanielZhu profile image

      Nathaniel Zhu 6 years ago from Virginia Beach

      Thanks. Biology is my favorite =3

    • cydro profile image

      Blake Atkinson 6 years ago from Kentucky

      I didn't know you were a good writer yourself. Scholarly hubs are my favorite.