A Technique for Studying Animal Behavior
How do animals
spend their time? Have you ever wondered how scientists find out? "Ethology" is
the study of animal behavior. One way to quantify behavior is by watching
an animal over an extended period and making an “activity budget.” Basically,
an activity budget shows how much time an animal spends in various activities
such as eating, resting, sleeping, and moving.
An Activity Budget for the Online Eagle Nest
Eagles Online archives photos every 5 minutes and saves them for a full hour.
Use this resource to make an activity budget for a nesting eagle and eaglet.
What behaviors can you observe in the eagle nest? How much time does an eagle
spend at each? (What is impossible to observe, and how could this affect your
Scientific Studies Using “Activity Budgets”
Do a Web search for the phrase “activity budget.” You can read actual
scientific papers (abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussions). Here
The macaques spent nearly 70% of the day traveling and foraging, with the
remainder of the time spent resting (20%) and socializing (12%). The
most commonly eaten foods were kapok (32%) and forest fruits (11%), with
crop raiding providing a substantial part of the diet (10%).
Twelve months of cliff-based behaviour sampling accumulated 213 hours of
direct observation on 73 dolphin schools. Here is the proportion of time
spent in each of five behaviour states: travel (63%), feed (19%), social
(12%), play (3%) and rest (3%); 90% of all dolphin activity occurred within
0.25 km of shore.”
Altered time-activity budgets may disrupt the energetic balance of young.
As mercury levels in their blood rise, the amount of time that chicks spend
brooding (by back-riding) decreases and time spent preening increases.
A study of summer and autumn movements of white whales in Norway showed the
whales spent most of their time relatively stationary, close to different
glacier fronts in the area.
are important in a host of ways. For example, scientists must understand
normal animal behavior in order to recognize abnormal behavior when they
see it. These studies are also helpful for conservation management. Can
you see why?
This! My Activity Budget
List your main behaviors over the course of a day, then measure how much time
you spend at each. Make a pie chart to illustrate your results.
- How much
time do you spend working, playing, resting, eating, learning, obtaining
food, and so on?
- What percent
of your time do you spend sleeping? What takes place during sleep that
is so important?
- What patterns
do you see?
- How does
your activity budget reflect what's important in your life?
- What similarities
and difference can you find in the activity budgets of various students
in your class? Think about what reasons might be behind any variations.
- How do
you think adults' activity budgets compare to yours?
Science Education Standards
- Use data
to conduct a reasonable explanation.
investigations involve asking and answering a question and comparing
that to what scientists already know about the world.
use different kinds of investigations depending on the questions they
are trying to answer.
make the results of their investigations public.
kinds of questions suggest different kinds of scientific investigations.
- The behavior
of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger)
and by external cues (such as a change in the environment).
is one kind of response an organism can make to an internal or environmental
About Science and Technology
have always had questions about their world. Science is one way of
answering questions and explaining the natural world.