From insects to mammals: On the spatial behavior of animals

insects   |   mammals   |   animals   |   spatial behavior
Monday ,19 June, 2017 , 18:00 to 20:00

Lecture in Hebrew

Within the frame of the International Workshop on "Rational Animals?"

Behavior is the topmost level in the hierarchical phenomenon of life, be it of animals or humans. Attempting to understand the zoological foundations of behavior is central to biology. A rigorous scientific study of life phenomena is inconceivable without the notion of homological structures. For example, the established and supported claim that the forelimbs of man, horse, bird, bat and whale are homologous, i.e., share the same (homological) architectural body plan and the same (homological) developmental history,  ascertains the zoologist that what he measures and compares is indeed what he thinks he measures, in spite of the fact that the specific organ (e.g., the hand) looks very different and fulfills different functions in the different organisms (e.g., grasping in man, swimming in whale, flying in bat, etc.). Discovering behavioral homologies is indispensable for ethologists because without them one can never be sure that the behavior they measures is what they think they measure.

In our work we discovered the common generative rules and the homological behaviors they shape in spatial behavior of arthropods (e.g., fruit flies), and vertebrates (e.g., mice and human babies). One rule enacts the homological egocentric space of the organism, and the other enacts allocentric space. These discoveries became possible by using three methodological tools. i) A literate description of movement, using a geometrical symbolic language that represents in a comprehensive way the situatedness of the behavior in the environment, ii) exposing and using the origins used by the organisms themselves as reference for measuring the behavior, and iii) studying situations in which the behavior grows and differentiates from simple to most complex (or decays from most complex to most simple), in much the same way that comparative anatomists study the morphogenesis of homological body organs. In the most differentiated stage movement appears to be free (unpredictable). The generative rules will be described and demonstrated in a variety of organisms and situations.