Observational study of animal behaviour: from instinct to intelligence

Gadagkar, Raghavendra (1995) Observational study of animal behaviour: from instinct to intelligence Current Science, 68 (2). pp. 185-196. ISSN 0011-3891

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Ethology is the science of the study of animal behaviour. Begun as a passion and pastime of just a few individuals, ethology has grown into an elaborate scientific discipline with ever widening horizons. After a brief discussion of the history of ethology, I give a few examples of excellent ethological research which could easily have been done anywhere in India but were not! I then give a few examples of ethological research that were done in India and discuss briefly why so little ethology is done in India although it is an obvious choice for Indian biologists embarking on a research career. I argue that the study of animal intelligence provides a unique opportunity for Indian ethologists to provide international leadership. Ethologists have traditionally avoided the question of animal intelligence. The main justifications for this attitude are that animal intelligence cannot be defined, many animals such as insects have too small brains for intelligence and tbat we do not have unequivocal examples of animal intelligence. None of these justifications are satisfactory and there is a strong case for the study of animal intelligence. I give a number of examples from my study of primitively eusocial wasps that strongly suggest complex, intelligent behaviour and speculate that cognitive abilities of the wasps and other insects may have played an important role in social evolution.

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