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Introduction to Animal Behaviour

Wageningen University via edX

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Overview

Do you want to understand how and why animals behave the way they do, and how we test hypotheses about behaviour scientifically? This biology and life sciences course provides an introduction to the complexities of wild animal behaviour, and how it is studied.

Over six weeks, learners will explore the various behaviours animals adopt in order to meet the challenges of their daily lives. We begin with how animals learn and communicate with each other, then move on to discuss how they find food, avoid predators, choose their mates, and rear their offspring.

This course is aimed at anyone looking to broaden their understanding of animal behaviour beyond nature documentaries or a typical high school education. No previous knowledge is required, only curiosity and enthusiasm for the subject.

This course is taught by three top-researchers of Wageningen University & Research, a top-ranked university. Prof. Marc Naguib is professor and chair of the behavioural ecology group and shares his fascination for birds behaviour as they are incredibly mobile and have an amazing repertoire of behaviour. Dr. James Savage is currently a postdoctoral fellow at University College Cork, where he is studying the social behavior of birds across different habitats in a fragmented landscape. Dr. Lysanne Snijders shares her passion for social dynamics of animal populations.

Syllabus

Week 1: The science of animal behaviour
An introduction to key concepts for studying animal behaviour, including evolution, natural selection, anthropomorphism, and the scientific method.

Week 2: Learning, cognition and development
How animals learn to adjust their behaviour to their environment, and how they use their mental abilities to solve practical problems.

Week 3: Communication
An introduction to the various means animals use to send signals to each other, and how these signals are influenced by the environment and social context.

Week 4: Finding food and avoiding predators
How animals find and exploit food resources, and how they avoid becoming food themselves.

Week 5: Mating systems and parental care 
The complexities of creating the next generation, from finding and competing for a mate to rearing offspring.

Week 6: Living in groups
The costs and benefits of living with others, how complex social groups arise, and why some animals forego reproduction to help others breed.

Taught by

Prof. Marc Naguib and Dr. James Savage

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