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Emitters and Receptors : Question 1
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Scientists who study animal behaviour are called ethologists. One famous ethologist was Niko Tinbergen. Tinbergen studied the mating habits of sticklebacks. A stickleback is a small, freshwater fish. Sticklebacks are usually found in shoals. During most of the year the males and the females look alike.

The following list gives the events which lead up to the mating of two sticklebacks:


  1. The male leaves the shoal and develops a red colour on his front, just under his head.

  2. The male chooses his territory.

  3. The male chases off other males from his territory and builds a nest of algae and other water plants.

  4. The male searches for a female with a body swollen with eggs.

  5. When he finds the female, the male performs a "zig-zag" dance.

  6. The female follows the male to his nest.

  7. The male uses his snout (nose) to show the female the entrance to his nest.

  8. The female moves into the nest.

  9. The male touches the female's tail with his snout and the female lays her eggs in the nest.

  10. The female leaves the nest and the male enters it to put his sperms over the eggs.



(a) When are the following senses used during the mating of sticklebacks?
(i) touch (ii) sight

Give two precise examples in each case.

(i) touch

(ii) sight

(b) Which of the senses does not appear to be used during the mating of sticklebacks?


(c) Tinbergen kept a male stickleback in an aquarium. The aquarium was near a window. Tinbergen noticed that the stickleback showed an aggressive reaction when a red van was parked outside of the house.

How can you explain the behaviour of the male stickleback?


(d) Tinbergen used models to represent female sticklebacks to find out if the male would perform his 'zig-zag' dance. The diagrams opposite show the four models which were used in this experiment.

Tinbergen discovered that the male would dance when he was shown models B, C and D. The male responded most to C. He did not respond at all to model A.

female shapes

Explain the reaction of the male stickleback to these four models.