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Etymology of ethology

The Greek root of ethology is twofold: “ethos” mores, and “logos” knowledge. Literally, it is about the knowledge of manners. Understood in the sense of 'habits', the term can include all societies, human or not. Ethology applies primarily to animals and the animal kingdom in general. The human species is the subject of a specific field of study with anthropology.

Ethology is a scientific discipline in its own right, stemming from biology, which studies the behavior of animals in a natural environment.

History of ethology

This term is used for the first time by Isidore Geoffroy St Hilaire in 1855. This academic discipline acquired its letters of nobility in 1973 when Niko Tinbergen, Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz obtained the Nobel Prize in Medicine for works on animal behavior, each in different areas.

Ethology knows different movements within its scientific community. Before 1930, the training phase of the discipline was qualified as naturalistic ethology. Subsequently and until the 1960s, the classical phase was characterized by an opposition between the European objectivist vision and the behaviorist approach developed in the United States. Finally, since the 60s, the scientific discipline has entered a stage of maturity, called modern ethology.

Ethology today

The fields of study of this scientific discipline have been expanding in recent years. Specialties appear within this domain. Neuroethology studies the sensorimotor and neuronal processes, which are responsible for behaviors.

Ethophysiology, or physiology of behavior, studies the physiological determinants (hormones, lipids, proteins, immune system, etc.) of behavior.

Cognitive ethology develops an integrative approach. It seeks to understand how an individual develops behaviors. This results in knowledge often called 'Animal intelligence'.

Behavioral genetics takes into account the innate capital of individuals as a way of explaining behaviors, often considered previously as exclusively acquired.

Finally, applied ethology studies behavior while pursuing the goal of improving relationships between humans and animals, the conservation of species and the well-being of captive animal populations.