Animal Behaviour

foraging bird behaviourA whole range of intriguing behaviours are described and analysed in this module, ranging from sexual imprinting in birds to fighting in red deer. The approach is based on the idea of selfish genes described by Richard Dawkins in his influential book 'The Selfish Gene'. The key question is under what conditions genes spread under natural selection that code for specified behaviours. Using this approach we look at the reasons why animals fight, and this is illustrated by the BBC's Autumnwatch programme that followed the success of different males in the red deer rut on the island of Rum. Elsewhere we consider why males and females have different mating strategies, and why it is that animals sometimes help each other, but other times compete for resources. The module describes the science behind the marvellous natural history films we see on television, and some of these films are shown in the course.


staff photographProfessor Richard Sibly is an ecologist. He trained in the Animal Behaviour research group at the University of Oxford. At the moment he is particularly interested in the new Metabolic Theory of Ecology and with others is writing a book about it. The theory is based on the premise that as organisms increase in size, the costs of transporting nutrients and oxygen around their bodies increase disproportionately. The upshot is that larger organisms cannot use as much power, per unit bodymass, as smaller organisms.What are the implications for ecology? He has been exploring this with collaborators at the University of New Mexico which he visits twice a year. He has written nearly 200 scientific papers and produced four books.

Module convenor: Professor Richard Sibly

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