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Fredonia Shakespeare Club hears paper on ethology

Submitted Photo Priscilla Bernatz read her paper, “Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1973,” which concerned ethology, the study of animal behavior and social organization from a biological perspective.

The fifth meeting of the 2019-2020 Fredonia Shakespeare Club year was held on Nov. 7 at the home of Lucille Richardson. President Richardson welcomed 13 members.

Priscilla Bernatz read the minutes from the Oct. 31 meeting. The minutes were approved as written.

The Club’s area of study this year is Nobel Prize Winners. Bernatz read her paper “Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1973” which is summarized as follows:

Ethology, the study of animal behavior and social organization from a biological perspective, combines laboratory and field science. Konrad Lorenz, considered the father of ethology, along with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch are credited with advancing this science. In 1973, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to von Frisch, Lorenz and Tinbergen “for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns.”

The Karolinska Institute, the organization designated to choose the prize winner in this area, issued the following press release: “During the first decades of this century, research concerning animal behavior was on its way to being stuck in a blind alley. The vitalists believed in the instincts as mystical, wise and inexplicable forces inherent in the organism, governing the behavior of the individual. Reflexologists interpreted behavior in a one-sided mechanical way, and behaviorists were preoccupied with learning as an explanation of all behavioral variations. The way out of this dilemma was indicated by investigators who focused on the survival value of various behavior patterns in their studies of species differences. Behavior patterns become explicable when interpreted as the result of natural selection, analogous with anatomical and physiological characteristics. This year’s prize winners hold a unique position in this field. They are the most eminent founders of a new science, called “the comparative study of behavior” or “ethology” (from ethos = habit, manner). Their first discoveries were made on insects, fishes and birds, but the basic principles have proved to be applicable also on mammals, including man.”

Von Frisch is known for his research on the “language” of bees. Using a series of experiments he discovered ways bees use to communicate information to each other. Tinbergen is known for his observations of seagulls, which led to important discoveries about courtship, mating and chick raising behavior. His studies confirmed his theory that behaviors are the result of a cause, development, evolution and function. Lorenz is best known for his discovery of imprinting. Lorenz demonstrated the phenomenon by appearing before newly hatched mallard ducklings, imitating a mother duck’s quacking sounds, the young birds regarded him as their mother. Lorenz could be observed crouched on his knees or crawling on hands and knees, quacking loudly followed by his clutch of ducklings.

Lorenz’s studies advanced scientific understanding of how behavioral patterns evolve in a species, particularly with respect to species survival. He proposed that animal species are genetically programmed with specific kinds of information that are important for their survival. His experiments demonstrated how behavioral patterns develop and mature during the life of an individual organism.

The prize winners’ discoveries have led to comprehensive research on mammals. Their discoveries concerning the elicitation of genetically programmed behavior have been proven to exist in mammals including man. Man is equipped with a number of fixed action patterns, elicited by specific key stimuli. For example: The smile of an infant and the behavior of a mother to her newborn child. Certain social situations can lead to conflict, for example over crowding within a restricted space often leads to destructive, aggressive behavior, both in animal and man. Research within the field of ethology has led to important advances in both psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine.

Mary Croxton assisted at the tea table.

The next meeting of the Club was set to be held at the home of Nicki Scheonl, with Leanna McMahon scheduled to read her paper Nobel Peace Prize 2004.

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