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Animal behaviour is anything an animal does; from its feeding habits, its reproductive actions, to the way it rears its young, and a host of other activities. Behaviour is always a planned action. It is the whole animal’s alteration to changes inside the body or in its surroundings. Behaviour can be thought of as a response to a stimulus, some change in the body or in its environment. All wildlife, even those too small to be seen without a microscope, react to stimuli. A stimulus is a signal from an animal’s body or its environment. A stimulus is a form of energy, light waves or sound vibrations that all react differently for different animals. All but the simplest animals receive a stimulus; light, sound, taste, touch, or smell through specialised cells called receptors, located in many places on or in the body. For example, fish have hair like organs which cover most of their body and sometimes on the tail. These structures enable fish to feel changes in the water from oxygen fluctuations, to temperature changes, it also helps to detect nearby food. Cats who hunt in the dark, rely on complex touch organs associated with their whiskers. At the receptors the external energy is changed into nerve impulses. In complex animals these instincts may travel either to the brain or through reflex arcs to trigger the hormone or muscle actions of a response.
An important connection exists between an animal’s nervous system and its capability to respond to environmental changes. Animals with a fairly simple nervous system, such as ants, respond in a relatively stereotyped fashion as compared with animals that have a more highly advanced and focused nervous system, such as rats. A rat can integrate different stimuli from the environment and can store and use the information from past experience to solve simple and complex problems with ease compared to that of than an ant. However, the rat is not as successful as a higher mammal, such as a chimp. For example, the rat is trained to run a maze and a number of pathways toward a goal, all but one of which end in blind alleys the aim is to find food. The rat then begins at the end of the maze and must learn to run the course in reverse in order to reach food placed at the starting point. The rat takes less trials to learn the maze backward than forward but overall struggles with the experiment. An ant given the same training can’t benefit from its past experience. It must learn the backward path as though it were brand new. The chimpanzee shows the highest learning ability of the three. When the chimpanzee solves a problem, such as distinguishing between two geometric shapes. That is, after it has learned that it can be rewarded with food by making the correct choice between the two shapes, it easily makes the correct response on the next try. A rat requires a number of tests before it can associate shape with food.

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