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Discovering Animal Behaviour
Discovering Animal Behaviour
Subject Biology
Level Upper secondary
Language English
Type Lesson sequence, long-term study, experiment

Ethology is the science that studies animal behaviour. In Italy Ethology is taught in high schools in the programs of natural sciences and although the subject arouses great interest in pupils, often it is given very little time. The purpose of this project is to show how this science can positively contribute to the pupils’ approach to study experimental sciences and evolution.

The project deals with the observation and description of the feeding behaviour of insects. The aim is for students to experiment with the scientific method and to learn important concepts related to the evolution of behavioural patterns. After a short bibliographic research, students formulate the experimental hypothesis and decide upon the experimental method to be used to verify the hypothesis.

The bugs selected for the experimental study are Bubas bison L. and Pimelia bipunctata Fabr. coleopters that show Food Relocation Behaviour, a strategy consisting in the active space-time separation between food achievement and its use. Bubas bison are dung beetles that perform food relocation for building the nest. Students observed the life cycle of this insect. Pimelia. is a tenebrionid beetle which is quite common in Italy’s coastal dunes. In natural conditions, Pimelia show Food Relocation occasionally and in rudimentary manner. In laboratory it is possible to induced this behavioural strategy. In fact, under the condition of high density of individuals there is a high frequency of relocations. This is very important for the study of evolution of this behaviour. The entomological collection is carried out manually or by traps. The insects are kept alive in special terrariums. The experiments consist of supplying food in fixed portions and recording quantity and quality of food consumed and food relocation procedure. Students observe insects and recording data about the variation correlated to experimental conditions, such as temperature, dampness and brightness. Then the data is analysed with simple statistical methods. The students formulate their conclusions based on the analysed data.

Finally students create a CDROM and a web site. The teachers carry out verification tests set-up by not only to appraise the pupils’ cultural growth, but also how much the project had contributed in changing their attitude towards experimental sciences in terms of behaviour and value list.  
Contact details
NameGabriella Salerno
Last update: 17 July 2007


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