Discovery Science: Behavior Patterns

Behavior Patterns

Animals tend to react to certain stimuli with particular responses. These specific patterns regulate and simplify relations between animals of the same or different species.

They include reproduction, care of young, communication, feeding, and defense, and may involve body movements and vocalizations.

Biology – Ethology – Courtship, Mating, and Care of the Young

Higher animals have adopted distinct behaviors for courtship, mating, and rearing their young. These behaviors help them to find the best mate and produce healthy offspring.

Sexual reproduction, the procreation strategy of all higher animal groups, is maintained through courtship and mating rituals. Parents feed, protect and transmit skills and behaviors to their offspring.

Behavior patterns form the foundation of family groups and other complex social structures, which may remain strong for life.

Searching for a partner

Each animal species uses unique strategies to search for and attract a potential partner. A male’s display helps females recognize his potential, desirability, and suitability for mating. The female usually has the labor-intensive job of raising the young, so she selects a partner whose off-spring will justify this investment.

Courtship may involve visual stimuli, such as a rooster’s comb, deer’s antlers, or the bright colors of dragonflies. Other courtship devices include auditory cues, such as birdsong or specific odor-producing substances like pheromones, especially popular with insects.

Mating and care of the young

Mating ensures the successful transfer of the sperm cell to the egg cell. Fertilization occurs internally or externally, where sperm from the male fertilizes the female’s egg cells. These mature into embryos inside the mother’s body, in the case of most mammals, or in eggs laid by the mother, as for example in the case of reptiles and birds.

Nearly all invertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles reduce childcare to selecting or creating a place to deposit their eggs. This is often a hole or nest that protects the eggs from predators and the environment. Laying many eggs helps ensure that at least some offspring will survive.

The young of many other animals are helpless and highly dependent on their parents. Particularly in the case of mammals, where care of the young is even more demanding and can last several years or more.


Begging is a behavior mostly seen in helpless young animals. The purpose is to receive food or water from parents or social partners. Songbirds show a distinct begging behavior when young.

They react to movements, elongating their necks and opening their beaks as wide as they can. The throat pattern becomes visible triggering feeding behavior by the parent birds.