David B. Miller

Animal Behavior Screencasts

Animal Behavior Screencasts
Animal Behavior Screencasts


Screencasts (video podcasts) hosted by Dr. David B. Miller Professor Emeritus at The University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, U.S.A. These screencasts were formerly used in Dr. Miller's Animal Behavior course from 2009 to 2017, prior to his retirement.

Link: icube.uconn.edu


Development: Episode 9: Early Experience (FINAL EPISODE IN THIS SERIES)

Nov 12, 2018 29:34


Early experience greatly affects behavioral development. Here we look at different ways of experimentally addressing how that takes place.

Development: Episode 8: Reformulation of Imprinting

Nov 5, 2018 10:54


Konrad Lorenz’s original imprinting question concerned species recognition in relation to mate selection. This reformulation drills down to individual recognition as a possible mechanism underlying incest avoidance in relation to a model of optimal outbreeding posited by Sir Patrick Bateson.

Development: Episode 7: Problems with Imprinting

Oct 31, 2018 11:45


Imprinting is a powerful phenomenon, but the manner in which it is studied experimentally is sometimes questionable, ranging from the tasks that animals are required to do to demonstrate preferences to the issue of redirecting species-typical preferences toward species-atypical objects, as well as mis-imprinting.

Development: Episode 6: Critical Periods

Oct 22, 2018 16:57


The concept of critical periods is often associated with imprinting as well as other phenomena ranging from experimental embryology to language development. The experimental study of critical periods, however, usually ignores a critical methodological problem, which is described here.

Development: Episode 5: Imprinting

Oct 15, 2018 14:17


An examination of sexual and filial imprinting (social attachments) from an historical perspective.

Development: Episode 4: Behavioral Embryology

Oct 8, 2018 27:58


Important events occur before birth or hatching, both in terms of embryonic movements and the influences of incoming sensory information. The extent of significant contributions to postnatal development can depend on how "altriciality" or "precociality" of the species. Related to this are the kinds of sensory systems that develop both prenatally and postnatally, including an interesting evolutionary constancy.

Development: Episode 3: Experience

Oct 5, 2018 42:34


The ways that experience, both prenatal and postnatal, can affect behavioral development can often times be obvious (linear) or not so obvious (nonlinear). There are also 5 different ways in which either form of experience can greatly affect development, as discussed with many example in this screencast.

Development: Episode 2: Nature-Nurture Controversy

Sep 24, 2018 41:46


Developmental systems and a consideration of evidence inconsistent with genetic determinism, such as the C-value paradox and contextual & experiential activation of genetic activity. Also, epigenetics, and flawed views of so-called interactionism, as well as a description of the transactional view of development.

Development: Episode 1: General Conceptual Issues

Sep 17, 2018 25:51


To paraphrase animal behaviorists T. C. Schneirla and Niko Tinbergen, an understanding of animal behavior necessitates an understanding of how behavior actually develops, beginning prenatally. Here, we look at a few issues concerning developmental science, including multiple developmental pathways and continuity vs. discontinuity, including behavioral examples.

Communication: Episode 16: Ape Language Controversy

Sep 14, 2018 30:36


A look at the controversy surrounding the ape language controversy, including the apes Vicki, Washoe, Sarah, Lana, Sherman & Austin, Nim, Kanzi, and Panbanisha.

Communication: Episode 15: Other Senses

Sep 3, 2018 20:37


Some nonhuman organisms use senses that are undeveloped in humans. As discussed here, these include electrical communication, magnetic sensitivity, surface wave communication, and dome pressure sensitivity.

Communication: Episode 14: Tactile

Aug 27, 2018 6:49


Many species communicate via touch (tactile communication), including allogrooming, allopreening, etc. Here, we look at some examples, including swarming onset by locusts and tandem running in ants.

Communication: Episode 13: Olfaction

Aug 20, 2018 9:06


Many animals communicate via odor molecules. Here we look at comparative aspects of olfaction, including underwater odor communication as well as olfactory receptors in the antennae of cockroaches.

Communication: Episode 12: Vocal Imitation

Aug 13, 2018 4:15


Some bird species have excellent abilities to imitate other species of birds as well as other sounds. This brief episode shows a few examples.

Communication: Episode 11: Song Complexity

Aug 7, 2018 11:24


Some animal vocalizations are relatively simple in acoustic structure, but many are also very complex and can be energetically costly to produce. So, why produce them? Here we examine some data on frog and bird vocalizations that offer possible explanations.

Communication: Episode 10: Methods of Studying Bird Song

Jul 30, 2018 18:34


In an attempt to ascertain how some species of song birds learn their songs, researchers have developed techniques to disrupt auditory input as well as output and assess the results on adult song.

Communication: Episode 9: Bird Song Complexity, Mechanisms, and Development

Jul 23, 2018 24:37


An examination of the complexity of bird song, the syrinx—a structure that is primarily responsible for it, and how song develops from nestlings to adults.

Communication: Episode 8: Sonic & Symbolic Communication

Jul 16, 2018 16:17


How nonhuman animals use sounds within the human hearing range to refer to specific items, such as threats from potential predators as well as food items.

Communication: Episode 7: Ultrasounds & Infrasounds

Jul 10, 2018 31:02


Many nonhuman species send and receive auditory signals outside the range of human hearing. Low-frequency infrasound and high-frequency ultrasounds play numerous roles, as discussed here.

Communication: Episode 6: Infrared & Ultraviolet Communication

Jul 2, 2018 15:52


Infrared & ultraviolet senses are used extensively by a wide variety of nonhuman organisms, even though these senses are outside the range of visible light to which humans are sensitive. Some examples shown here involve California Ground Squirrel tail wagging, avian mate choice, Jumping Spider courtship, and butterfly wingspots.

Communication: Episode 5: Bioluminescence

Jun 25, 2018 15:53


Bioluminescence is a form of visual communication involving pulses of light produced by specific organs in a variety of species, such as deep-sea fishes, jellyfishes, and fireflies.

Communication: Episode 4: Visual Communication

Jun 11, 2018 21:10


Various aspects of how animals communicate visually, including the waggle dance of honey bees, how honeyguides help Boran people locate honey, asymmetrical tail-wagging of dogs that reflect different emotional states, and mockingbird recognition of threatening humans.

Communication: Episode 3: Localization

Jun 5, 2018 8:33


Locating the source of an animal vocalizing ranges from relatively easy to quite difficult, and it all depends on structure of the signal. Easy-to-localize sounds are used for specific purposes, and difficult-to-localize sounds are used for other purposes, as discussed in this screencast.

Communication: Episode 2: Physical Aspects

May 29, 2018 38:28


How nonhuman organisms deal with environmental noise to enable effective communication. Noise includes signal attenuation and signal degradation, and has effects on stimulus detection and stimulus recognition.

Communication: Episode 1: Definition & Neuronal Mechanisms

May 23, 2018 19:13


The definition of communication is complex and somewhat controversial. We'll explore why that's the case, and then move on to some neuronal mechanisms enabling effective communication.

Mating Behavior: Episode 7: Mating Systems

May 18, 2018 30:49


Different species have different mating systems that characterize the primary (though not solely) means under which reproduction occurs. Here, we examine perennial & seasonal monogamy, polygamy, including polygyny & polyandry, and promiscuity, including lekking species. Human mating systems are culture-specific.

Mating Behavior: Episode 6: Breeding Synchrony

May 8, 2018 7:20


An examination of 3 reasons why some species of nonhuman organisms breed synchronously: Optimal Resource Availability; Social Foraging; and, Avoiding Predation.

Mating Behavior: Episode 5: Speciation

May 6, 2018 13:06


An examination of sexual selection in relation to speciation, including runaway sexual selection and sensory exploitation.

Mating Behavior: Episode 4: Inbreeding

Apr 26, 2018 14:00


Deleterious effects of inbreeding in lions, and mechanisms of incest avoidance in zebra finches via female choice of male song, and incest compensation in shore birds via extra-pair mating.

Mating Behavior: Episode 3: Female Choice of Mate

Apr 19, 2018 16:55


When it comes to sexual selection, males court females, and females choose with whom to mate (with a few exceptions). Thus, female choice of mate is critical, and here we describe examples of this as well as related phenomena such as the Handicap Principle, disruptive selection, and sexual dimorphism not caused by sexual selection.

Mating Behavior: Episode 2: Male Dominance

Apr 9, 2018 18:36


Males compete for females in a variety of ways: competitive mate searching, various mechanisms of sperm competition, and overt conflict. This screencast portrays each of these with a variety of examples.

Mating Behavior: Episode 1: Sexual Selection

Apr 2, 2018 14:42


The Darwinian concept of sexual selection, explored through examples of sexual dimorphism, how females can benefit by being choosy when selecting a mate, what cues females might use to assess potential mates.

Hormones & Semiochemicals: Episode 4: Pheromones

Mar 26, 2018 24:34


Pheromones are semiochemicals that typically communicate within a species for such purposes as territory marking and sexual behavior. Occasionally, they might operate between species, as we'll see in this screencast.

Hormones & Semiochemicals: Episode 3: Allelochemics

Mar 19, 2018 11:57


Allelochemics are semiochemicals (i.e., chemicals that have either communicative value or anti-predator benefits) that communicate between different species. Three subclasses of allelochemics are allomones (that benefit the sender), kairomones (that benefit the receiver), and synomones (that benefit both the sender and receiver). Examples are shown of each of these substances.

Hormones & Semiochemicals: Episode 2: Interaction of Hormones & Behavior

Mar 12, 2018 15:10


The reproductive behavior of ring doves has been investigated thoroughly beginning with the pioneering studies by Daniel S. Lehrman and his associates. His work, which is described here, nicely illustrates how external environmental factors cause the release of hormones, which, in turn, triggers behaviors, which, in turn cause the release of other hormones that affect all aspects of reproduction (courtship, incubation, parenting).

Hormones & Semiochemicals: Episode 1: Activational & Organizational Effects of Hormones

Mar 6, 2018 25:16


An examination of how how hormones have an immediate (activation) effect and how they have a longer-term (organizational) effect on behavior.

Domestication: Episode 3: Degeneration vs. Context

Feb 27, 2018 35:44


What happens to animals during the domestication process? Is their behavioral altered in a way that renders them “abnormal,” or are any observed behavioral changes due to the context in which domestic animals are maintained? The Russian geneticist Dimitri Belyaev investigated behavioral and physical changes in foxes, and more recent studies have examined behavioral changes in ducks.

Domestication: Episode 2: Domestication as a Social Process

Feb 21, 2018 31:42


Domestication is viewed as one of several social processes involving a "guest" as the exploiting species and a "host" as the exploiting species. Other processes include symbiosis, scavenging, robbing, social parasitism, and taming. Each of these are presented with examples.

Domestication: Episode 1: Introduction to Domestication

Feb 13, 2018 19:55


The process of domestication as analogous to natural selection, examples of domesticated animals, including an historical perspective leading back to Darwin. Also, experimental studies of artificial selection, and the steps necessary to create domestic breeds.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 10: Development and Evolution

Feb 7, 2018 15:29


An examination of changes in timing of developmental events over evolutionary time—a phenomenon known as "heterochrony," which covers both accelerated development across evolution as well as neoteny, a slowing down of developmental events.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 9: Cultural Evolution

Jan 30, 2018 21:56


Ways in which cultural evolution can occur and numerous examples in a birds, nonhuman primates, and whales.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 8: Hyperselectionism & Exaptation

Jan 23, 2018 19:57


Here, we explore whether every behavior has necessarily been selected for its current role, or if they were originally selected for a different role. The term “exaptation” helps to distinguish between these alternatives, as we consider a number of examples.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 7: Adaptation

Jan 16, 2018 32:21


Numerous examples of animal adaptation among a wide variety of species, including the relationship between adaptation and speciation illustrated by Darwin's Finches.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 6: Speciation

Jan 11, 2018 19:27


Examples of ecological speciation, ecological character displacement, and geographic isolation, as mechanisms by which speciation can occur.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 5: Rates of Evolution

Jan 7, 2018 9:59


Is the rate of evolutionary change gradual or rapid? This screencast explores the Darwinian rate of gradualism vs. salvationism, or punctuated equilibrium. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 4: Altruism

Jan 2, 2018 27:51


Examples of altruism and reciprocal altruism, plus mechanisms of kin recognition.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 3: Altruism, Cooperation, Hybrids

Dec 27, 2017 25:05


Examples of altruism, cooperation, kin selection, and animal hybrids.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 2: Units of Selection

Dec 24, 2017 7:33


A discussion about 3 units of natural selection: Individual (Darwinian), Genic, and Group Selection, and how Group Selection is not necessarily inconsistent with Individual Selection.

Evolution & Adaptation: Episode 1: Evolution Scorecard

Dec 24, 2017 15:13


Evolution's scorecard in terms of its coverage in schools in the United States. Also, a brief look at how creationism may have played a role in undermining the public's understanding of evolution. Finally, a look at
Darwin's "missing evidence"—industrial melanism.

Ethological Concepts: Episode 4: Innate & Instinctive Behavior

Dec 1, 2017 21:27


The distinction between innate and instinctive behavior. Also, an examination of fixed action patterns, consummatory acts, action-specific energy, and Konrad Lorenz’s model of instinctive behavior.

Ethological Concepts: Episode 3: Behaviors

Nov 22, 2017 38:20


Examples across a wide range of species of threat displays, courtship displays, distraction displays, appeasement displays, intention movements, vacuum activity, displacement activity, redirected activity, and simultaneous & successive ambivalent behaviors.

Ethological Concepts: Episode 2: Ritualization

Nov 15, 2017 11:10


Sir Julian Huxley's concept of ritualization describing 3 mechanisms by which non-communicative behaviors evolve into displays that take on communicative functions.

Ethological Concepts: Episode 1: Stimuli

Nov 7, 2017 30:20


Ethograms, sign stimuli, configurational sign stimuli, releasers, supernormal stimuli, and innate releasing mechanisms.

Contemporary Issues: Episode 7: Animal Welfare & Animal Rights

Oct 31, 2017 18:42


An examination of animal welfare and animal rights, including regulations, alternatives, and illegal activities by extremists.

Contemporary Issues: Episode 6: Camouflage

Oct 24, 2017 18:55


Numerous examples of how nonhuman organisms conceal themselves with various forms of camouflage for the purposes of predation and hiding from prey.

Contemporary Issues: Episode 5: Mimicry

Oct 14, 2017 27:58


Mimicry is an extraordinary evolutionary adaptation, typically involved in predator-prey relationships. Here, we examine both Batesian and Müllerian mimicry.

Contemporary Issues: Episode 4: Homologous vs. Analogous Traits

Oct 10, 2017 10:25


An examination of the difference between homologous traits (traits found in different species traceable to a common ancestor) and analogous traits (traits that appear to be similar but have no common descent).

Contemporary Issues: Episode 3: Phylogeny: Tree vs. Scale

Oct 6, 2017 14:37


An examination of the phylogenetic tree (which reconstructs evolutionary relationships based on homologous data) and the phylogenetic scale (which is a non-evolutionary ordering usually based on degree of presumed complexity).

Contemporary Issues: Episode 2: Cognition

Sep 27, 2017 31:05


An examination of the cognitive capabilities of a wide range of animal species, including dung beetles, assassin bugs, ants, archer fish, chimps, African Grey Parrots, New Caledonian Crows, and dogs, the latter including fMRI brain scans.

Contemporary Issues: Episode 1: Generalization

Sep 20, 2017 26:10


The ability to generalize is important in animal behavior. Here, we explore 6 dimensions of generalization: species, domestication, context, behaviors, rewards, & sensory modalities. Dangers of sloppy generalization are also discussed.

Ethological Methods: Episode 8: Instrumentation

Sep 13, 2017 39:08


An examination of technological innovations, old and new, that enable scientists to study animal behavior, including the use of blinds, video & audio aids, fiber optics, micro cameras, and telemetry.

Ethological Methods: Episode 7: Experimental Manipulation in Field and Lab

Sep 9, 2017 23:23


In order to identify actual causal mechanisms of behavior, one must manipulate variables and measure the effects of those manipulations, using proper experimental design. We'll explore how this has been done in both the field and laboratory, including the use of robotics.

Ethological Methods: Episode 6: Sampling

Sep 5, 2017 18:48


When collecting a lot of data, especially in field research, one has to choose a sampling technique because it is not feasible to report all of the raw data points. There are 2 types of sampling: Subject Sampling and Event Sampling. Forms of each of these are discussed in this screencast.

Ethological Methods: Episode 5: Sequential Analysis

Aug 31, 2017 9:15


Behaviors typically occur in sequences rather than in isolation. Here, we examine how to look at behavioral sequences using a transition matrix, calculating conditional probabilities, and constructing flow diagrams of the sequences.

Ethological Methods: Episode 4: Levels of Analysis of Behavior

Aug 27, 2017 15:32


An examination of "lumping" (whole-grain behavioral analysis) versus "splitting" (finer-grain analysis of individual components of a whole behavior pattern), with examples of each.

Ethological Methods: Episode 3: Field-to-Laboratory Continuum

Aug 15, 2017 14:30


An examination of animal behavior observational research settings based on the degree of control by the investigator, with five points along the continuum and examples of each.

Ethological Methods: Episode 2: Pros & Cons of Field & Lab Research

Aug 11, 2017 36:47


An intensive examination of problems associated with field research, based on personal experience in doing field work in North Carolina, as well as issues involving laboratory research.

Ethological Methods: Episode 1: Naturalistic Observation

Aug 7, 2017 23:01


An examination of the importance of context on animal behavior, and five roles of naturalistic observation in better understanding animal behavior.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 9: Recent Trends

Aug 5, 2017 20:03


This final "history" episode examines neuroethology, including scanning technology, optogenetics, and behavioral ecology.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 8: 20th Century Influences

Aug 5, 2017 25:31


Significant influences on the study of animal behavior from Zing-Yang Kuo, T. C. Schneirla, Daniel S. Lehrman, Douglas Spalding, Jakob von Uexküll, Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen, and Karl von Frisch.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 7: The Modern Experimental Movement

Jul 21, 2017 29:26


Contributions by C. Lloyd Morgan, Edward Thorndike, Willard Small, Wolfgang Köhler, John B. Watson, and Karl Lashley, in relation to general principles of animal behavior and later studies.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 6: Post-Darwin 19th Century

Jul 14, 2017 10:43


An examination of Ernst Haeckel's "biogenetic law" (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) and Wilhelm Preyer's contribution to behavioral embryology.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 5: 18th Century & Darwin

Jul 10, 2017 40:55


How Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, Herbert Spencer, R. A. Fisher, and especially Charles Darwin influenced the development of animal behavior, with special consideration on the theory of evolution and expression of emotions in man and animals.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 4: 16th to 18th Century Contributions

Jul 4, 2017 19:46


Hans Bol's mobbing engravings, Descartes' mechanistic views, Leeuwenhoek's microscope coupled with preformation vs. epigenesis, Linneaus, C. F. Wolff, and Karl von Baer contributed to the history of animal behavior.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 3: Later Greek and Roman Contributions

Jun 28, 2017 9:28


A brief examination of contributions to the study of animal behavior by Aristotle, Ptolemy II, Zeno, Pliny the Elder, and the Man-Brute Dichotomy of Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 2: Early Historical Figures

Jun 23, 2017 23:26


How Empedocles and Xenophon made important contribution to evolutionary theory and predator avoidance, respectively; and, how those have influenced contemporary research, especially in the area of predator avoidance.

History of Animal Behavior: Episode 1: Cave Art & Beyond

Jun 18, 2017 13:33


Observations of animal behavior date back to at least the cave art of Cro Magnons. Grotte Cauvet added new insights into a keen awareness of animal behavior, along with some of the early civilizations that worshipped animals.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 7: Tinbergen's Four Questions

Jun 16, 2017 8:46


Nobel Prize winner Niko Tinbergen is known for his four questions about which investigators might orient as they pursue their research on animal behavior: Causation, Function, Phylogeny, Ontogeny. Each is considered here, as well as one of many possible reorganizations of these questions.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 6: Exploitative Uses of Animals

Jun 3, 2017 26:12


Examples of how humans have exploited abilities of nonhuman organisms, for better or worse, including entertainment, earthquake prediction, warfare, and helping people in a variety of ways.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 5: Who Studies Animals & Why, Part 2

May 29, 2017 19:25


Ecologists are hugely invested in the study of animal behavior for a variety of reasons, such as imbalances of ecosystems due to introduced and/or invasive species, as well as conservation issues.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 4: Who Studies Animals & Why, Part 1

May 21, 2017 38:21


Scientists as well as hobbyists and enthusiasts from a variety of fields and interests have been interested in animal behavior. These include agricultural scientists, wildlife biologists, conservationists, and other scientists from a variety of disciplines.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 3: Levels of Studying Animal Behavior

May 12, 2017 37:53


An examination of how anecdotes and anthropomorphism influences the study of animal behavior, as well as the scientific approaches involving observation & description, experimentation, and using nonhuman organisms as models for humans.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 2: Anthropocentrism

May 8, 2017 28:02


Anthropocentrism refers to viewing the behavior of nonhuman organisms from a human perspective. In other words, we often deem animals as "clever" because they do things similarly to the way we do things. For better or worse, we tend to make value judgments about animal behavior based on our own behavioral capabilities.

Introduction to Animal Behavior: Episode 1: Typical Contacts

May 7, 2017 21:48


Humans come into contact with nonhuman organisms in a variety of daily contexts. This episode describes some of this common situations.

About This Animal Behavior Screencasts Series

May 7, 2017 1:16


A brief introduction describing what this screencast series is about.