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Research at St Andrews

Behavior, overview

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter provides the overview of marine mammals behavior. Marine mammalogists often divide behavioral research into categories defined by mode of study: "acoustics" is studied by recording underwater sounds with a hydrophone, "behavior" is often informally defined as that which can be seen by an observer watching animals, and "diving" is often studied by attaching tags to animals. This method-oriented view of behavior may be convenient for sorting different research traditions, but it obscures the integrated whole of behavior as it has been shaped by evolution. Each method yields its own view, but no single one alone can provide a complete picture. Most behavioral ecologists divide behavior along functional lines, i.e., what is the problem the behavior has evolved to solve. In functional analysis of animal communication, a receiver can often be viewed as paying attention to a signal to answer a question related to one of these behavioral problems. When the receiver detects one signal out of a larger signal set, the signal can potentially help the receiver to reduce uncertainty about the correct answer. It was suggested that a receiver's questions can be divided into three categories: sender identity, sender location, and behavioral context. Depending on the problem, the receiver may be interested in different levels of recognition of the signaler: species, group, sex, age, or individual. The behavioral contexts of animal communication bear a striking resemblance to the functional behavioral problems: conflict resolution, territory defense, sexual interactions, parent-offspring interactions, social integration, and environmental contexts such as those related to prey and predators. © 2009



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Marine Mammals
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780123735539
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

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