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“How have Tinbergen’s four questions stood the test of time? Are they still relevant to the study of animal behaviour today? Or do they need revising?”

Overview

In his 1963 paper Niko Tinbergen, ethologist and ornithologist, and subsequently joint Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, defined four approaches to asking questions within animal behaviour studies, mechanism, adaptive value, ontogeny, and phylogeny. These were based on the recognition that biologists can focus on questions about behaviour in different ways. They were not unique to Tinbergen and were derived from the work of Aristotle, Huxley (1942) and Mayr (1961). For over 50 years Tinbergen’s four questions have remained a key basis for the study of animal behaviour.

Task

“How have Tinbergen’s four questions stood the test of time? Are they still relevant to the study of animal behaviour today? Or do they need revising?”

Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of Tinbergen’s four questions supported with relevant examples. Critically evaluate whether the four questions are comprehensive enough based on current animal behaviour research. Critically contemplate the strengths and weaknesses of the approach Tinbergen proposed over half a century ago. Support with evidence from current research throughout.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of relevant animal behaviour theories;

2. Critically analyse current research relating to animal behaviour and understand how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through this research;

3. Apply and contextualise relevant theories to a variety of situations with originality in the application of the knowledge.

 

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