Sample Assessments

Assessment 1 <p>BI/PSY 441

BI/PSY 441

Assessment 1

  1. An animal rights group asks you to design a study that will determine whether mother dogs are heartbroken when their puppies are taken away. Discuss some of the issues this question raises. (Note: Do not design the study, evaluate the question itself.)



  3. A breeder wants to select for "quiet cats", cats that almost never meow. She currently has some quiet cats but doesnít know whether the trait is innate or learned. Design a study to answer her question (assume you have lots of time, money, and cats).



  5. The spotted owl lives only in old growth forests. People who wish to cut down the forests say that the owls can "learn to live in other habitats". Discuss why this statement is or is not valid. If you donít have enough information to make your decision, state what information you would need and how it would help you decide.



  7. Refer to the figure below. White-browed sparrows breed cooperatively and defend territories from other groups. Territory defense involves regular patrolling of boundaries plus a characteristic chorus vocalization given by all group members in concert. Simulated territorial intrusions resulted in dramatic increases in territorial aggression by all group members. Hormone levels before and after the intrusion were also recorded. What conclusions do you make from the data?



  9. Researchers working with spotted hyenas have found that certain behaviors, such as play, diving into the den when danger approaches, and incessant chewing are very common in juveniles, but are quite rare in adults. Explain this finding.
Assessment 1 BI 441

BI 441

Assessment 2

  1. Gray squirrels were presented with two different types of acorns (oak seeds). Oak species A has acorns that sprout (germinate) quickly, becoming useless as a food source. Oak species B has acorns that do not germinate quickly and can be stored for a long time before they are eaten. Handling time also varies: large acorns take more time to open. Squirrels were presented with pairs of acorns. The acorns in each pair were different in either handling time or species. Squirrels consistently cached species B and ate species A, regardless of the handling time.

A. Explain the findings.




B. Imagine that the experiment were repeated using raccoons (which do not cache food). What patterns do you expect to see? Why?



2. Dolphin trainers must get health information on a regular basis. They hire you to make the process easier. Your job is to train the animals to respond to a certain whistle by swimming over to a trainer and presenting their fluke (flipper) to the trainer for a blood sample. Describe your training method.




3. The following data were found for hoary marmots (Marmota caligata).

Average distance between individuals (m)


Male-Female Pair

Female-Offspring Pair

2 weeks before breeding

21 (Std Error = 2)

30 (SE = 13)

2 week after breeding

85 (SE = 12)

42 (SE = 2)

  1. Graph the data (attach an Excel-generated graph).

B. What conclusions do you draw from the data?




  1. A species of monkey has two predators: A (a poor climber) and B (a good climber).
  • When the monkeys see predator A, they make loud alarm calls.
  • When the monkeys see predator B, they silently move away.
  • Predator B is also hunted by predator A.
  • When B sees A, it gives loud alarm calls.
  • Groups of monkeys that live where both predator A and predator B occur gave loud alarm calls when they heard recordings of predator Bís alarm calls.

Explain the behavior of the monkeys: why do they respond differently to the predators and why do they respond to Bís alarm calls this way?




5. The DNR has hired you to find out whether migration in Canada geese is genetic or learned. Briefly describe how you will study this. Be sure to explain your predictions, for example: "I will do X, and if they do Y it means migration was not genetic."



Assessment 3

  1. Female guppies were allowed to choose mates of different color levels. They showed a strong preference for brightly colored males. After being exposed to a predator, females reversed their preference and almost all chose the duller colored males as mates. Provide a reasonable hypothesis to explain this pattern.




  1. Some seabirds raise only one young at a time, but may breed year after year. Researchers wanted to know whether the parent or the offspring determined how much would be invested in each yearís chick. These birds do not seem to recognize their own young vs. "adopted" chicks so the researchers were able to switch chicks.
  2. a. If chicks determined how much food the got (by begging, for example), what pattern do you predict?




    b. If parents determine how much the chick gets what pattern do you predict?




  3. DNA fingerprinting has been used to measure rates of extra-pair paternity in several bird species. In collared flycatchers, a species in which both sexes raise the offspring, researchers found that 33% of broods contained some nestlings not fathered by the male at the nest.
  4. In Wilsonís phalaropes, one female lays eggs in the nests of several males. Males so all of the incubation and feeding of young and can only rear one brood per year. Researchers have found no extra-pair paternity in these species.

    Explain the difference in the rates of extra-pair paternity.




  5. A greyhound handler hires you to reduce the amount of aggressive behavior between dogs at the kennel. Describe two possible strategies and why you think they will work. For each strategy, clarify whether it is based on the assumption that:
    1. aggression is genetic
    2. aggression is learned
    3. aggression is a combination of both learning and genetics
    4. the strategy will work regardless of the underlying cause.




Assessment 4

  1. Animals of the same species treat different individuals differently. Imagine that two mammals simultaneously discover a small food source. Describe some of the factors that determine whether one individual will share with another, drive the second animal away, or just try to consume the food before the second animal can eat it. Make sure you explain why these factors influence the first animalís behavior.



  3. Some bird species form mixed-species flocks. Some flocks contain tufted titmice, nuthatches and other birds. Researchers wondered whether nuthatches joined the titmice in order to reduce their chances of being killed by predators. To find out, they placed feeders 16m away from the edge of a "safe area". In half of the trials, titmice were removed, in the other half, titmice were present. The results looked something like this:


  1. What pattern do you see?


  3. Does this pattern support or refute the predation protection hypothesis? Why?




C. What do you predict would happen if the feeder were moved much closer to the "safe area"? Why?




  1. A researcher was interested in why certain lizards do "push ups" when a predator is nearby. He hypothesized that the pushups were an honest signal from lizard to predator about the lizardís condition.
  1. Design an experiment to test this hypothesis (use the space below).
  2. Say what result will support this hypothesis and what result would refute it.




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Last update: 4/18/02 by Rebecca Burton, Dept. of Biology, Alverno College