Survival Instinct in animals

Survival Instinct

Behaviour helps an animal to survive, whether it acts automatically or from teaching or experience. The be­haviour will depend on how and where the animal lives, what it comes into contact with, and what kind of brain it uses. Much of the behaviour of lower animals is automatic. Marvellous as the community life of ants and bees may seem, it is not thought out, but instinctive. In a beehive, life is centred around the queen bee. She is an egg-producing machine from which the working colony is born. As more and more workers appear they take on different duties to keep the beehive going. Some tend their queen, others feed the grubs, build or repair the nest, gather food, remove debris, and even act as guards at the hive entrance. By vibrating their wings at the doorway some help to ventilate the interior.
Feeding is automatic, and food passes from one worker to the next. Food gatherers give it to the hive nurses who then feed the grubs. Food exchange is made by tapping the head with the antennae. A worker will even do this to a model head made out of Plasticine. Even more remarkable is the bee 'dance'. A food gatherer brings back nectar or pollen to the hive and performs a figure-of-eight dance on the comb. The angle of this dance in relation to the sun, and the number of times it wags its tail will tell other workers how far away the food source is, and in which direction to go. This has been tested by marking bees with spots of paint, so as to follow their journeys.

Change of Habit

There are a number of animals which have managed to change their habits and can now live successfully in artificial habits, such as man-made towns or in houses. Everyone is familiar with the town pigeon. This bird has descended from the wild rock dove which lives and nests on sea cliffs. In towns it nests and roosts on buildings. It seems that old habits die hard. The familiar birds like the robin, thrush and chaffinch, which are really woodland birds, have readily taken over parks and gardens, and will even use the homes we provide for them. A blue tit uses a nest-box, and a robin an old tin kettle.

Some dogs in our streets have even learned a kind of traffic drill, and can be trained to use a pedestrian crossing. Unfortunately for them, hedgehogs have not yet got used to traffic in country lanes, and many are run over at night.