01257 - Ethology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Climate Action Oceans Life on land

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

 At the end of the course, the student has the scientific method of study and the basic knowledge of animal behavior relationship with the evolutionary process and the environmental adaptations.

Course contents

  • Behavior: definition, evolutionary and adaptive meaning, the scientific method to study causes, cause distant and cause remote.
  • The gene-environment interaction: the innate (instinctive) behavior and the learned behavior, the "imprinting", the development of behavior: bird singing, addiction, conditioned conditioning or conditioned reflection, operating conditioning or learning for attempts and mistakes, the game.
  • The ecology of behavior: adaptations, costs and benefits, defense against predators: mimicry, animal synchronism with cyclical environmental changes: circadian rhythm, lunar cycle, biological clock. Adaptations and vulnerability of animals to climate and global changes: case studies.
  • Choose where to live: territory, habitat, migration.
  • Food behavior: optimum forage.
  • Reproductive behavior: sexual selection, partner choice, courtship, bridal systems: polygamy, polyandry, monogamy, parental care.
  • Social behavior: the advantages and disadvantages of social and solitary life, dominance divisions, communication: visual, acoustic, tactile, electrical, chemical (feromonic) signals; The Society of Insects: dance of mulberry bees, agonistic or conflicting behavior, behavior of "mobbing", deception behavior, "selfish" and "altruistic" behaviors.
  • Cognitive approach: the transmission of information and culture.
  • The modern Zoological Garden: the "mission": research, conservation, dissemination.


-Alcock “Etologia un approccio evolutivo,” Ed. Zanichelli 2020

-Krebs & Davies "Ecologia e comportamento animale", Ed. Bollati - Boringhieri 2016

-Sadava, Hillis, Heller, Berenbaum, "Biologia-vol. 5 La biologia degli animali, vol. 6 L'ecologia". Zanichelli 2014

-Hickman, Keen, Eisenhour, Larson, L'Anson, "Fondamenti di Zoologia", ed. McGraw-Hill 2020

-materiale didattico fornito dal docente (PP, articoli scientifici).

- teaching material provided by the teacher (PP, scientific articles).

Teaching methods

Lectures with projection of PP and scientific films.

Assessment methods


Teaching tools

 computer projector

Office hours

See the website of Maria Vallisneri