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Behaviour B3 Topic 2 – Biology Extension GCSE

This article will go over everything you need to know for Topic 2, Behaviour, from different ways of communicating, instinctive, learned and conditioning behaviour in humans and animals, herbivore and carnivore feeding, reproductive behaviour and parental care. Please feel free to move to the section of the article most relevant to you.

Firstly let’s start off with a definition of behaviour:

Behaviour is the action or reaction to something under certain circumstances

It is a mistake to interpret behaviour observed in other animals as showing human characteristics. This is known as anthropomorphism. An example of this would be let’s say Scooby Doo, who adopts traits of humans such as speech and the ability to think and walk like a human too.

However, if is also a mistake to assume that human and animals behaviours have nothing in common. What you must  know is that human’s and animals’s behaviour have both differences and similarities.

Conditioning means acting in a particular way in response to a given stimulus.
There are many examples of conditioning and we have made use of conditioning when training captive animals for specific purposes. An example of conditioning is through Pavlov’s dogs in which Pavlov provided a stimulus to the dog be it light, sound, anything and then immediately gave food to the dog. After a number of days, the dog started associating the stimulus with food and had an increase in saliva in his mouth as the dog was ready waiting for the food because he knew the stimulus meant food. An example of Operant (or ‘trial and error’) conditioning is Skinner’s box, in which he placed a rat in a box. The box had a lever in which if the rat pulled would provide him food. The rat learnt to pull the lever to get food showing he is learning from trial and error.
We have made use of conditioning through training captive animals to carry out specific purposes such a dog to sit and rewarding him with a treat.

Animals can communicate in many different ways such as:

  • Signals – Such as bees with the waggle dance in which bees fly in a figure of eight at the direction where there is a source of food. Check out the waggle dance on YouTube.
  • Sound – Birds use sounds most to communicate especially when trying to find a mate. An amazing bird, the lyre bird, can imitate sounds of other birds and the sounds of the rainforest. It can imitate cutting down trees with a chainsaw and car alarms as that’s what it hears. Check out the lyre bird on YouTube!
  • Facial expressions – This is usually found in mammals.
  • Body Language – This is most commonly found in humans but is also in other mammals.
  • Chemicals – An example of chemical communication are moths which release pheromones to attract potential partners.

Animals need to be able to communicate to mate with other animals of its species, warn of danger, find each other and tell each other things.

Instinctive Behaviour
Instinctive behaviour is a behaviour you are born with: you know to do something when your born.
Examples of this is a dung beetle which knows how to roll dung into a ball as soon as their born.
Animals can inherit behaviour through their genes of their parents too. Lagerspetz’s conducted an experiment in which he found if aggressive mice bred together, the offspring would be aggressive too.

Learned Behaviour
Learned behaviour is a behaviour is an action or reflex an individual found beneficial in some way. It is based on experiences.
An example of this a bird learning that a scarecrow is harmless: it stops responding to a repeated stimulus. This is Habituation which means learning not react to insignificant things.

Imprinting is when you learn something from an early experience in life.
An example of this is ducks which follow the first thing they see and associate it as their mother.

Herbivore Feeding
Herbivores have to spend a lot of time eating as there food takes a long time to digest and is not energy/nutrients (amino-acids: protein) rich.

So How Does Feeding in Herds Protect Individuals?

  • Vigilance – there will be some of the herd watching out for danger always.
  • Confusion – herd can run in different directions to confuse predators.
  • Dilution – more animals in a herd, the less likely being the one that gets eaten.P
  • Group Defence – use their superior numbers to defend themselves against predators.

Herds need to move frequently to new areas for food.

Carnivore Feeding

  • Fast so that food isn’t stolen.
  • Hunt in packs e.g. lions or alone e.g. tiger.
  • Don’t need to spend as much time eating as food has lots of energy in it and is protein rich.
  • Must be adapted to catch prey e.g. pointed teeth, eyes at front of head, camouflage and claws.


  • Hunt alone.
  • Don’t use teamwork or co-operation to get close to prey.
  • Uses stealth and camouflage.
  • Avoid being involved in long chases.


  • Hunt is packs called prides as they don’t have enough strength to pull down big prey by themselves.
  • Male hunt in forests as they are stronger.
  • Females hunt in open as they are faster.
  • Cause panic in herds to separate individuals.

Reproductive Behaviour
Life is about passing on your genes. To do this you have to find a mate. Because there is lots of competition for mates, courtship behaviour is often used.

Some species mate with lots of mates while others are monogamous: they mate with the same person each year e.g. penguins. Some species show no parental care e.g. insects, fish and snakes while others show lots of parental care e.g. mammals and birds.

So why do animals show parental care even though it costs them energy? So the children or offspring have more of a chance of surviving.

Humans vs Animals

  • Humans are one of the great apes and it is believed that we share a common ancestor with chimps and gorillas.
  • Bonoboes (pygmy chimpanzees) are our closest related species.

The Hominids 

  • Homohabilis –  the first to use tools.
  • Homoerectus – the first to show bipedalism – stand and walk on two feet,
  • Homosapiens – us.

The Hunter-Gatherer Way of Life:

  • Early humans gathered plants as well as hunting for animals.
  • They were nomadic, following animals which they used as resources.

How Have We Become more Complex than this?

  • By domesticating animals to help us hunt like dogs.
  • By developing agriculture and domesticating herds of animals so they could stay in one place.

What makes us different from animals?

  • Self aware.
  • Use a complex language.
  • Recognise emotions.
  • Ability to plan.
  • Understand consequences of our actions.
  • Complex use of tools.
  • Can completely change the environment around us.

What have humans used animals for?

  • Food
  • Racing
  • Clothing
  • Pets
  • Circuses
  • Companions
  • Wildlife parks
  • Transport


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