The A-MAZE-ing Chicks…

Take On The Labyrinths of Room 103!

GUEST POST BY EMMA BROWN ’19

After a successful relay race last Monday— though some chicks were a tad distractible— Animal Behavior students have spent the past week studying associative learning and spatial cognition. This was achieved through two experiments: teaching our chicks to turn in a circle on command, and determining their learning abilities in the context of navigating a simple Y-maze.

Pictured below is Jan’s chick, Colonel Sanders, who was the only triumphant twirler in our class.

For the second experiment, my group constructed a Y-maze out of shoeboxes wherein one path from the fork would lead to food and freedom, and the other to a dead end. We tested the accuracy of Ferdi, Colonel Sanders, and a third chick over the course of five runs.

Our data depicted a significant decrease in time taken from Run 1 to Run 2 immediately followed by an outlier increase for all three birds in Run 3. Then, as the timing decreased for all birds aside from Ferdinand (who got distracted) in Runs 4 and 5 respectively, the data appeared to indicate that chicks can retain their learning of a Y-maze for a short amount of time, needing to “re-learn” the route before gaining any form of proficiency.

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Can’t Help Falling In Love With…

The Return of Animal Behavior!

Guest Post By EMMA BROWN ’19

Welcome to Animal Behavior 2018! After the eventful happenings of last Thursday evening, the arrival of baby chicks to dorms and homes was a much-appreciated change of scene. Below is a picture of my chick, Franz Ferdinand, who has a certain fondness for cuddling and attempting to roost in my hair. (Currently, as I type, Ferdi is making his best efforts to turn my attention away from my laptop by means of walking all over the keys.)

This weekend has been devoted to getting our chicks prepared for an obstacle course on Monday. This will test the strength of the filial imprinting process for each chick. At this age, chicks imprint almost immediately. After all, they’re just barely a few days old! As to provide a protective figure for them, it is important to bond with your chick early on. I have been doing this by feeding, cuddling, talking and singing to, and spending as much time with Ferdi as possible. Additionally, as chicks are attracted to the color red, I’ve been wearing solely red shirts for the past few days in true, traitorous Exonian form. (Love knows no bounds.)

Come back next week to see how my Elvis-ballad-loving chick performed for his debut race!

Schooled by the Fish

Animal Behavior Learns about Schooling of Fish

Guest Post by Carley Kukk ’19

This week in Animal behavior we researched the tendency of fish to school. Certain fish school, such as Silver Tail Rasboras, in order to protect themselves against predators. They truly embrace the idea of strength in numbers. In contrast, other fish, like red wag platys, do not school because their slow-moving bodies would not benefit from swimming in groups if a predator came along.

For our lab, Dr. Bailey asked us to come up with a procedure that could identify schooling in fish. My group and I decided to insert a piece of plastic with a hole into a tank with two different amounts of fish on each side. We would time how long it takes for all of the fish to reunite (or swim through the hole and form a school). Our fish, the red wag platys, are non-schoolers, so they didn’t mind the separation from their peers or didn’t reunite.

After we completed our own procedure, Dr. Bailey gave us her own version to test. We drew lines on the outside of the glass fish tank indicating sections 1-4. We separated all of the fish except one into a separate bowl next the side of the tank with a barrier so they couldn’t see the lone fish. After 3 minutes of allowing the lone fish to relax after his separation, we removed the barrier and tracked which section the lone fish remained in. If he was in section 1, closest to the other fish, for the entire 10 minutes, schooling occurred. Yet the red wag platys distributed themselves evenly across the sections, indicating no sign of schooling.

Ultimately, Dr. Bailey’s procedure was more effective in determining whether schooling occurred, yet the lab was extremely interesting and the fish, especially the red wag platys, were/are super cute!

Squirrels and Crayfish!

Animal Behavior Learns About Foraging and Territoriality

Guest Post by Carley Kukk ’19

The last two weeks of animal behavior have been pretty busy with learning about foraging behaviors and territoriality. To explore foraging behaviors, we utilized an abundant resource on campus: squirrels!

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We set up a station next to multiple trees around campus with 4 piles of peanuts. Two piles were 2m from the tree while the others were 6m. One pile at a certain distance had unshelled peanuts and the other shelled. During our double block, we observed squirrel activity. Although we weren’t so lucky in sighting any squirrels (weird, right?), we learned the typical trend for this activity. Unshelled peanuts closer to the tree are a more popular choice because unshelled peanuts require less handling time (aka: less energy) and they are closer to a tree where a squirrel is safe from predators.

In another experiment performed this previous week, we tested the theory that residents are more likely to dominate intruders in a battle over territory. We placed a crayfish (who is extremely territorial) in a tank overnight to establish it’s dominance over the territory.

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The next morning we added an intruder crayfish: one larger and one of the same size. The resident crayfish usually dominated an intruder of the same size, yet was defeated by an intruder of a larger size.

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Like a Chick in a Maze

Animal Behavior Continues Working with Chicks

Guest Post by Carley Kukk ’19

During our last week with the chicks, we focused on teaching them how to get through a maze using associative learning. We constructed a simple Y maze with leftover shoeboxes and placed a small pile of food at the end.

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The food acted as a positive reinforcement if the chicks successfully completed the maze. Hopefully, they would later associate the correct end of the maze with the food.

In our experiment, we used 2 chicks to strengthen our data. Each chick surprisingly ran their fastest time through the maze on their first try. This was probably a fluke as later proved in the data where the chicks always explored the other end of the maze before completing it.

Eventually it took around 30 seconds each to complete the maze. There were in total around 7 trials for each chick. They finally began to associate the ending with food and ultimately learned through operate conditioning the correct way to complete our y-maze.

Learning at the Fish School

Animal Behavior Students Observe Schooling in Fish

In Mr. Tom Cone’s Animal Behavior classes last week, students participated in an interesting lab about determining the schooling ability of certain fish.

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According to Tom Cone, the significance of schooling in fish is that of safety, but also companionship. When fish are good at schooling (gathering in large groups), it helps them look bigger to other fish which is a great anti-predator mechanism. It also helps with procreation, as a fish to mate with is never far away. In addition, studies have shown that schooling fish live longer in groups, which indicates schooling is also a social behavior.

Mr. Cone set up multiple fish tanks with different species of fish inside. Students divided into groups and chose a type of fish to observe. The experiment is set up where one fish is in the large tank and the others are in an adjacent smaller tank. The large tank is separated into four equal quadrants.

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Students then began to observe the single fish in the large tank – for 10 minutes they record the location (which quadrant) of the fish. They repeat the recordings with the small tank on the other side of the large tank.

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The students then tried to make observations to determine what attracts the one fish to the others (the releaser or stimuli) – is it their color? their size? their markings? They then repeated the entire experiment, but instead of using the small jar of fish, they created their own model of a fish using paper and markers to see if the fish behave the same way.

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Students then took the data they gathered and used it to determine if their species of fish is a “schooling” fish. Some students found significant data that their species of fish is great at schooling – their fish stayed mostly in the quadrant adjacent to the other fish. Other students found that their fish may not be great at schooling as they swam all around the tank.