Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ethogram (I didn't know either)

An ethogram is a catalogue of discrete behaviors typically employed by a species. Still non the wiser!
When collecting data on species it is usually undertaken by monitoring individuals. This is all well and good if the species inhabits areas easy to access permitting them to be followed easily. When, however, they move quickly, inhabit areas without access, or have behaviours that result in changes of altitude, or depth, it becomes more difficult.
Technology is improving and remote data loggers attached to animals are making it easier. In one such study (see: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0005379) they have used accelerometers to record behaviour. These types of loggers are particularly useful in that they can record the dynamic motion of a body in e.g. flight, walking, or swimming.
Using the shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, as a study species, they have been able to record the behaviour of a bird by analysing the resultant 'surge' profiles. They can determine when it was swimming, walking or flying, and when it was diving (including the duration of the ascent and descent, and even the depth that it dived too) .
This is exciting news - it now permits the remote monitoring of species previously impossible. My only reservation about all of this is that you have to have some knowledge of the behaviour of the species in order to make any meaningful interpretation of the surge profile. In the case of little know species this could be difficult.

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