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Tinbergen, Nikolaas

behaviour animal prize aggression

[ tin bergen] (1907–88) Dutch ethologist: a pioneer in study of animal behaviour.

Tinbergen graduated in zoology at Leiden, and afterwards taught there, except for 3 years in the Second World War spent in a hostage camp in occupied Holland. In 1947 he moved to Oxford and developed there his work on animal behaviour. The emphasis of this was to examine the patterns of behaviour shown by animals in natural conditions as well as in the laboratory; it included work on digger wasps, arctic foxes, seals, sea birds and snails. His now-classic studies of the social habits of herring gulls and the mating of sticklebacks showed that key elements of behaviour follow a stereotyped pattern and can depend largely on particular features. For example, the gull chick pecks for food at the parent’s beak largely in response to a red spot on the latter. Also in these gulls, Tinbergen found that aggression between males is shown not only by calls but also by gestures, which in part seem designed to avoid actual fighting and injury. His wide-ranging work included study of learning behaviour, animal camouflage, instinct, and autism and aggression in human beings. He shared a Nobel Prize in 1973. His elder brother Jan also shared a Nobel-style Prize, the first awarded by the Swedish National Bank for economics, in 1969.

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