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My favorite subject at university

I studied Biological Sciences in my undergraduate degree at University. My favorite subject that I studied over the course of my degree was animal behavior.

Animal behavior

Animal behavior is also known as ethology and is the scientific study of everything that animals do, from single-celled organisms to multicellular organisms such as fish, birds or mammals. It is one of the fastest-growing disciplines in the biological sciences.[1] It involves the investigation of the relationship of animals to their physical environment, as well as to other animals. Animal behavior researchers are interested in understanding the causes of particular animal behaviors, its purpose, how animals develop said behavior, and its evolution across the natural history of the animal. They study things such as:

  • How animals defend resources (including food, mates, and territory)
  • How animals avoid predators
  • How animals choose mates and reproduce
  • How animals care for their young[2]

The most interesting part of my animal behavior classes for me was discovering the seemingly complex behaviors of animals we typically don't regard as highly intelligent. An interesting example is that of the urban-dwelling American crow (Corvus brachrynchus). These animals eat walnuts. In order to crack the hard shell of the walnut, they have learned to drop the nuts from a great height. Scientists have shown that the thicker the shell, the higher the height the birds choose to drop the nut from. However, if other crows are present, they then adjust the height from which they drop the nut to compensate for the possibility that these other crows may steal their nut (a phenomenon known as kleptoparasitism). They have evolved the ability to weigh up the relative pros and cons of dropping the walnuts from various heights.[3]


  1. Kappeler, Peter (2010). "Preface". In N, Anthes. Animal behavior: Evolution and Mechanisms. Springer. pp. V. ISBN 9783642026232. 
  2. "Animal behavior". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 22 Feb 2012. 
  3. Cristol, D.A (1999). "Avian prey-dropping behavior II. American Crows and Walnuts" (PDF). Behavioral Ecology (Oxford, UK: Oxford Journals) 10 (3): 220–226. doi:10.1093/beheco/10.3.220. 


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