HomeUndergraduate ProgramsUpper Division CoursesN159: Animal Behavior

N159: Animal Behavior

N159: Animal Behavior is taught in Spring Quarter by Professor Georg Striedter.

Dr. Georg Striedter

The aim of this course is to acquaint students with some major issues in the study of animal behavior, especially comparative psychology, through the reading and discussion of original literature. Students will also learn about experimental design, data interpretation, and what to do when studies disagree. In general, they will learn how to read and “digest” scientific papers. Students are expected to have read the assigned readings ahead of class and to prepare oral answers to questions about the readings, which are posted on the class web site (see the syllabus for more information). The instructor will provide some background information, and explain some details not covered in the readings, but he will not formally “lecture.” In addition, students are expected to give one oral presentation of a scientific paper (from a preselected list of suggested papers). The course sounds a bit scary if you hate in-class participation, but most students end up enjoying the class. They usually report having learned a lot about how to read scientific papers (refuse to be intimidated!) and about animal minds.


Professor’s Office: 305 Qureshey Research Labs (part of CNLM).

Professor’s Office Hour: After class; there should be plenty of time to ask your questions in class, but you can also ask for a separate meeting.

Course Objective: To acquaint students with some major issues in the study of animal behavior, especially comparative psychology, through the reading and discussion of original literature. Students will also learn about experimental design, data interpretation, and what to do when studies disagree. In general, they will learn how to read and “digest” scientific papers.

Prerequisite: You must be a Bio Sci honors student or have special permission.

Meeting Time & Place: The class meets M, W, F from 3-3:50 PM in Donald Bren Hall 1429.

Course Web Site: https://eee.uci.edu/15s/06065

Course Format: The course is based primarily on student discussions of selected readings. Students are expected to have read the assigned readings ahead of class and to prepare oral answers to questions about the readings, which are posted on the class web site. The specific papers are listed below in the course schedule, and you’ll be able to download them as a compressed zip file from the class website. The instructor will provide some background information, and explain some details not covered in the readings, but he will not formally “lecture.” In addition, students are expected to give one oral presentation of a scientific paper (details below)

Examinations and Grades; There will be one midterm and a final, worth 40% each. These exams consist of a subset of the reading questions that were already discussed in class, and of relatively simple questions that relate to the student presentations. The final is not cumulative, but may include one or two questions that integrate material across the entire quarter. Twenty percent of your grade is based on your in-class participation. In particular, were you prepared to answer the reading questions? Did you demonstrate an ability to think about what you had read? Did you participate productively in the in-class discussions?

Group Study and Cheating:   I encourage you to discuss the readings in small groups and to work together in preparing answers to questions. You may even write down answers to questions and share them with friends. Keep in mind, though, that it is your own responsibility to decide whether someone else’s answer is good enough for you. Also keep in mind that you will not be allowed to read answers in class or to have those notes with you at exam time. Any cheating or otherwise dishonest conduct (see section on Academic honesty in your course catalogue) will result in a failing grade for the class.

Oral Presentations: Four class periods have been set aside for student presentations of papers. The instructor has already made a list of 20 papers that would be appropriate and that you can choose from (see below; papers downloadable from the course web site). Each paper will be presented by 2-3 students as a team. Each presentation is to be no more than 10-15 minutes long (~5 minutes per team member) and involve no visual aids other than the board (i.e., no Powerpoint slides or handouts). If the paper includes movies as supplemental material, you can show one of them, but this video would be IN ADDITION to your allotted presentation time. Please check with Dr. Striedter before deciding to show a video. Your performance on these presentations is not graded, but each student must actively participate in their presentation. Each presentation should be structured to address the following 5 questions: (1) What question(s) were the authors trying to answer? (2) What did the authors do to answer the question(s)? (3) What did the authors find? (4) How did the authors interpret their results? (5) How do you interpret the authors’ results and conclusions? In other words, do you agree with them?


Approximate Schedule:

M, 3/30 – Introduction

W, 4/1 – Horowitz, A., 2009. Disambiguating the “guilty look”: Salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour.

F, 4/3 – King, S.L. et al., 2013. Vocal copying of individually distinctive signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins.


M, 4/6 – Gallup, G., 1970. Chimpanzees: self-recognition.

W, 4/8 – Hauser, M.D. et al., 2001. Cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) fail to show mirror-guided self-exploration

F, 4/10 – Chang, L. et al., 2015. Mirror-induced self-directed behaviors in rhesus monkeys after visual-somatosensory training.


M, 4/13 – Wittlinger, M., 2006. The ant odometer: Stepping on stilts and stumps

W, 4/15 – Riley, J.R. et al., 2005. The flight paths of honeybees recruited by the waggle dance

F, 4/17 – López, J.C. et al., 2000. Place and cue learning in turtles


M, 4/20 – Brothers, J.R. & Lohmann, K.J., 2015. Evidence for geomagnetic imprinting and magnetic navigation in the natal homing of sea turtles

W, 4/22 – Putman, N.F. et al., 2014. An inherited magnetic map guides ocean navigation in juvenile Pacific salmon

F, 4/24 – Mora, C.V. et al., 2004. Magnetoreception and its trigeminal mediation in the homing pigeon


M, 4/27 – Midterm

W, 4/29 – discuss midterm questions and answers

F, 5/1 – Foà, A. et al., 2009. Orientation of lizards in a Morris water-maze: roles of the sun compass and the parietal eye


M, 5/4 – Tsoar, A. et al., 2011. Large-scale navigational map in a mammal

W, 5/6 – Hurly, T., 1996. Spatial memory in rufous hummingbirds: Memory for rewarded and non-rewarded sites

F, 5/8 – Clayton, N.S. & Dickinson, A., 1998. Episodic-like memory during cache recovery by scrub jays


M, 5/11 – Dally, J.M. et al., 2006. Food-caching western scrub-jays keep track of who was watching when

W, 5/13 – Bird, C.D. & Emery, N.J., 2009. Insightful problem solving and creative tool modification by captive nontool-using rooks.

F, 5/15 – Student presentations


M, 5/18 – Student presentations, with Dr. McGaugh

W, 5/20 – Student presentations, with Dr. McGaugh

F, 5/22 – Student presentations


M, 5/25 – Memorial Day

W, 5/27 – Cesar Chavez Day

F, 5/29 – Bayern, von, A.M.P. et al., 2009. The role of experience in problem solving and innovative tool use in crows


M, 6/1 – Gerullis, P. & Schuster, S., 2014. Archerfish actively control the hydrodynamics of their jets

W, 6/3 – Catania, K., 2014. The shocking predatory strike of the electric eel

F, 6/5 – Wignall, A.E. & Taylor, P.W., 2011. Assassin bug uses aggressive mimicry to lure spider prey


M, 6/8 – Final Exam, 4-6 PM


List of papers you can select for your presentation

Please send a ranked list of your top 4 choices to georg.striedter@gmail.com

  • Brown C, Garwood MP, Williamson JE (2012) It pays to cheat: tactical deception in a cephalopod social signalling system. Biology Letters 8:729-732.
  • Hart BL, Hart LA, McCoy M, Sarath CR (2001) Cognitive behaviour in Asian elephants: use and modification of branches for fly switching. Anim Behav 62:839–
  • Patterson EM, Mann J (2011) The ecological conditions that favor tool use and innovation in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops). PLoS ONE 6:e22243.
  • Patel AD, Iversen JR, Bregman MR, Schulz I. 2009. Experimental evidence for synchronization to a musical beat in a nonhuman animal. Current Biology 19:827-830.
  • Toda K, Watanabe S (2008) Discrimination of moving video images of self by pigeons (Columba livia). Animal Cognition, 11:699–
  • Wright GA et al. (2013). Caffeine in floral nectar enhances a pollinator’s memory of reward. Science, 339:1202–
  • Bugnyar T, Kotrschal K, 2002. Observational learning and the raiding of food caches in ravens, Corvus corax: is it “tactical” deception? Animal Behaviour 64:185–
  • Corcoran AJ. et al., 2011. How do tiger moths jam bat sonar? Journal of Experimental Biology 214:2416–
  • Drullion D. & Dubois F. 2008. Mate-choice copying by female zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata: what happens when model females provide inconsistent information? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63:269–
  • Gesquiere, L.R. et al., 2011. Life at the top: rank and stress in wild male baboons. Science 333:357–
  • Herbranson WT & Schroeder J. 2010. Are birds smarter than mathematicians? Pigeons (Columba livia) perform optimally on a version of the Monty Hall Dilemma. Journal of Comparative Psychology 124:1–
  • Mather JA. 2008. Cephalopod consciousness: behavioural evidence. Consciousness and cognition 17:37–
  • Neff BD. 2003. Decisions about parental care in response to perceived paternity. Nature 422:716–
  • Sargeant BL & Mann J. 2009. Developmental evidence for foraging traditions in wild bottlenose dolphins. Animal Behaviour 78:715-721.
  • Sheehan MJ & Tibbetts EA. 2011. Specialized face learning is associated with individual recognition in paper wasps. Science 334:1272–1275
  • Carter GG & Wilkinson GS. 2013. Food sharing in vampire bats: reciprocal help predicts donations more than relatedness or harassment. Proc Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280:20122573
  • Watson SK et al., 2015. Vocal learning in the functionally referential food grunts of chimpanzees. Current Biology 25:495–
  • Siniscalchi M et al., 2013. Seeing left- or right-asymmetric tail wagging produces different emotional responses in dogs. Current Biology 23:2279–
  • Kasparson AA, Badridze J & Maximov VV. 2013. Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness. Proc Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280:20131356.
  • Taylor AH et al. 2009. Do New Caledonian crows solve physical problems through causal reasoning? Proc Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276:247–254