Laboratory Experiment 11: Animal Behavior for AP Biology

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Oct 24, 2011

This experiment draws on information found in behavioral ecology and ethology. This experiment is basically an exercise in messing with pillbugs' heads. Each student takes about a dozen of these fine bugs and places them into a container. In the first portion of the experiment, the student simply observes the behavior of the bugs for approximately 10 minutes. This is done to get a general idea of what kind of behaviors these bugs will undertake when in a somewhat normal situation (although you have to imagine that they will spend a good portion of that time wondering what the heck just happened to them and how they ended up getting dumped into this container).

For a quick review on behavioral ecology and ethology, refer to the following concepts:

This experiment is designed to study kineses—the change in the speed of a movement in response to a stimulus. When an organism is in a place that it enjoys, it slows down, and when in an unfavorable environment, it speeds up. The student is to create something called a choice chamber. In this experiment, the chamber consists of two Petri dishes taped together with a passageway that allows the bugs to move from one to the other. One of the dishes is dry, the other wet, and a dozen or so bugs are placed into the choice chamber, half on each side. Then the choice begins; every 30 seconds, the student records the number of bugs on each side of the chamber.

It is not important that you take away from this experiment the fact that pillbugs spend more time in the wet chamber than the dry chamber. What is important is that you recognize how to set up an experiment such as this one involving the choice chamber to measure kinesis in animals. Other variables measured include temperature, humidity, and light. The cooler and darker it is, the better as far as pillbugs are concerned.

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