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  Ethology (Greek ethos, ‘characteristic’ + ology) is the study of animal behaviour. It is a modern science but was studied by natural historians, though often with an anthropocentric bias, long before the 20th century. In the 19th century, the term ethology was used by John Stuart Mill to describe the ‘Science of characters’; it was first used to describe the study of animal behaviour by Oscar Heinroth (1871 - 1945). Behaviour is studied both in the laboratory, where environmental stimuli can be controlled, and in the field. Two zoologists, Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen, pioneered the controlled study of behaviour in the mid-20th century, and since then the field has grown rapidly. Much ethology has been restricted to non-learned responses in animals, partly because of the complexity of learned behaviour, and ecologists have become deeply involved with instinctive animal behaviour because of its importance in natural selection. Ethology is applied to problems of pest control, but many studies are driven by the far more complex problem of unravelling human behaviour, both learned and instinctive. To this end social groups of mammals, particularly the higher primates, have been extensively studied. RB

See also aggression; altruism; instinct; mimicry.Further reading Nikolaas Tinbergen, Social Behaviour in Animals; , E.O. Wilson, Sociobiology The New Synthesis.



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