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Behavior of Mammals Bi 216

Bi/CNS 216

A course of lectures, readings, and discussion focused on the genetic, physiological, and ecological bases of behavior in mammals. Basic knowledge of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology is desirable.

Class meets Wednesdays 2-4pm and Fridays 2-4pm in 200 Broad

Instructor: John Allman (

Teaching Assistant:  Anastasia Buyalskaya (

Grading: Quizzes= 10% (2 short quizzes @5% each)

Grant Proposal: 30%

Presentations: 60% (3 presentations @ 20% each)

Grading is based on:

1. Presentations made on the listed readings. Each student will be responsible for 3 presentations.    The presentations should be 15-20 minutes and be made in PowerPoint. They should be in the nature of a journal club talk; students are urged to use related literature to enhance the presentation.

2. Grant Proposal -- A five-page (not including literature cited) grant proposal based on some aspect of mammalian behavior. Submit your proposal topic by October 25. The full proposal is due Wednesday, December 2, submitted via email to Anastasia Buyalskaya and John Allman as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) attachment.

3. 2 short surprise quizzes on Fridays covering based on that week's videos and readings.

You don't have to include a budget, but your proposal should be feasible.

The Project Description should provide a clear statement of the work to be undertaken and must include: objectives for the period of the proposed work and expected significance; relation to longer-term goals of the PI's project; and relation to the present state of knowledge in the field.

Textbook Order online:

David MacDonald, The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Readings from The Encyclopedia of Mammals should be completed before the viewing date of the associated films. These readings will not be presented.  

October 2: No Class

October 4: Assignment of Papers for class presentation

Introduction- Some basic questions about mammalian behavior and several brief videos

Video- Franz de Waal- Moral Behavior of Animals

Video- Insect eaters

October 9:
Video- Gremlins of the Night (prosimians)

Video- Madagascar (the island, not the cartoon movie)

Short lecture on Primate evolution

EM 442-475 (bats), 302-307, 312-313 (bush babies, lorided, pottos, tarsiers), 286-305 (strepsirhines)

October 11: Foraging

Pearson, Watson, Platt (2014) Decision Making: the Neuroethological Turn, Neuron 82:95--965. 

  • Anand Muthusamy

Mobbs et al (2018) Foraging for the Foundations of Decision Neuroscience: Insights from Ethology, Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 

  • Marcos Nazareth Gallo

October 16: Extended Families

Video-Gremlins: Faces in the Forest (marmosets and tamarins)

Video- Rocky Mountain Beaver Pond

EM 314-318 (marmosets and tamarins), 142-147 (beavers)

October 18: Biparental care

Andres Bendesky. (2017) The genetics basis of parental care evolution in monogamous mice.

  • Maxwell (Max) Shen Molesky

Garber P. (1997) One for all and breeding for one: cooperation and competition as a tamarin reproductive strategy. Evolutionary Anthropology. 5:187-199.  AND  Kozorovitskiy Y, Hughes M, Lee K, Gould E (2006) Fatherhood affects dendritic spines and vasopressin V1a receptors in the primate prefrontal cortex. Nat. Neurosci. 9(9):1094-1095.

  • Kaitlyn Takata
Allman and Hasenstaub (2000) Caretaking, risk-seeking, and survival in anthropoid primates.
  • Sarah Hou

October 23 : Canids

Video- White Wolf

Video- Dogs Decoded

EM 590-619 (dog family)

October 25 : Canids and Felids- Proposal Topics Due

Mech & Boitani (2003) Wolf Social Ecology, page 1-34 in Wolves: Behavior, Ecology and Conservation, University of Chicago Press.

  • Hsuan-Te (Miriam) Sun

Ostrander et al (2017)  Demographic history, selection and functional diversity of the canine genome, Nature Reviews Genetics 18:705-17.

  • Yelim Lee

Ottoni, Claudio. (2017) The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world, Nature Ecology and Evolution

  • Kaitlyn Takata

See short video on cat domestication:

October 30: Meerkats and Kangaroos

Video - Meerkats United

Video - Kangaroos: Faces in the Mob

EM 660-667 (mongoose), 48-59 (kangaroos and wallabies), xxxi (kin selection and reciprocal altruism)

November 1: Hypersocial Mole Rats

Buffenstein R. (2006) Negligible senescence in the longest living rodent, the naked mole-rat: insights from a successfully aging species. J. Comp. Physiol. B. 178:439-445

  • Maxwell (Max) Shen Molesky

Ruby et al (2018) Naked mole-rat mortality rates defy Gompertzian laws by no increasing with age, eLIFE.

  • Anand Muthusamy

Lewis KN. (2016) Unraveling the message: insights into comparative genomics of the naked mole-rat.

  • Sarah Hou

Lagunas-Rangel, Francisco Alejandro. (2017) Learning of nature: The curious case of the naked mole rat.

  • Hsuan-Te (Miriam) Sun

November 6: Monkeys-Videos

Short videos on Capuchin monkey manufacturing and using stone tools and their use of medicinal plants.

Video - Mystery Monkeys and Shangri-La (douc langurs)

Video - Monkeys of the Temple Forest (45 min.)

EM  336-357 (guenons, macaques, baboons)

November 8: Monkeys-paper presentations

de Waal FB, Berger ML. (2000) Payment for labour in monkeys. Nature. 404(6778):563. AND  Brosnan, SF, de Waal FB. (2003) Monkeys reject unequal pay. Nature. 425:297-299.

  • Marcos Felipe Nazareth Gallo

Visalberghi et al (2009) Distribution of potential suitable hammers and transport of hammer tools and nuts by wild capuchin monkeys, Primates 50:95–104.   AND   Barrett BJ (2018) Habitual stone-tool-aided extractive foraging in white-faced capuchins, Cebus capucinus, R. Soc. open sci. 5: 181002.

Koops K, Visalberghi E, van Schaik CP (2014) The ecology of primate material culture. Biol. Lett. 10: 20140508.

  • Yelim Lee


November 13 - Elephants - week 1

Lecture on elephants

Reflections on Elephants (55) minutes

EM 90-101 (elephants)


November 15 - Elephants - week 1-paper presentations

Lee et al (2016) The reproductive advantages of a long life: longevity and senescence in wild female African elephants, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 70:337-45.   AND   Douglas-Hamilton et al (2006) Behavioral reactions of elephants toward and dying and deceased matriarch, Applied Animal Behavioral Science 100:87-102

  • Hsuan-Te (Miriam) Sun

McComb K, Moss C, Durant SM, Baker L, Sayialel S. (2001) Matriarchs as repositories of social knowledge in African elephants. Science. 292(5516):491-494.

  • Sarah Hou

Lahdenpara et al (2016) Nearby Grandmothers enhance calf survival and reproduction in Asian elephants, Scientific Reports.

Bates et al (2008) Do Elephants Show Empathy? AND McComb et al (2006) African elephants show high levels of interest in the skulls and ivory of their own species, Biology Letters2:26-8.

  • Marcos Nazareth Gallo

November 20 - Elephants - Week 2

Video -  Echo (elephant matriarch at Amboseli) I

Video -  Echo II

November 22 - Elephants - Week 2 - Paper presentations

Poole JH, Tyack PL, Stoeger-Horwath AS, Watwood S (2005) Elephants are capable of vocal learning. Nature. 434:455-456

  • Kaitlyn Takata

McComb et al (2000) Extensive Networks of Vocal Recognition in African Elephants, Animal Behaviour 59:1103-9

  • Yelim Lee

See Joyce Poole's website - elephant voices - recordings of elephants 

Chase et al (2016) Continent-wide Survey Reveals Massive Decline in African Savannah Elephants, PeerJ   AND  Hausenstein et al, Elephant Poaching Rates Correlate with Local Poverty, National Corruption and Global Ivory (2019) Nature Communications 

Goldenberg et al (2016) Vertical Transmission of Social Roles Drives Resilience to Poaching in Social Networks, Current Biology 26:75-9

  • Maxwell (Max) Shen Molesky

November 27  - California Elephant Seals

Video - California Elephant Seals

November 29 - Thanksgiving recess

December 4 - Bonobos    PROPOSALS DUE

Video - The Last Great Ape (Bonobos)

Video - The High Society (orangutans)

December 6 - Great Apes and Humans and Discussion of Grant Proposals

Kaplan H, Hill K, Lancaster J, Hurtado AM. (2000) A theory of human life history evolution: Diet, intelligence, and longevity. Evolutionary Anthropology. 9:156-185.

  • Anand Muthusamy

Class discussion of grant proposals