Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #208
CE Offered: BACB
Quantitative Analyses of Behavior at the Zoo
Sunday, May 24, 2009
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
North 120 D
Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Christy A. Alligood (Education and Science, Disney's Animal Kingdom)
Discussant: Diann Gaalema (Georgia Institute of Technology, Zoo Atlanta)
CE Instructor: Karissa Masuicca, M.S.Ed.
Abstract: Zoos have a long history of facilitating research on some of the world's most endangered species. The zoo setting provides an opportunity to study animals in semi-naturalistic environments, allowing for the development of studies that would be nearly impossible in the wild. The presentations in this symposium will describe quantitative analyses of behavior at the zoo and will focus on three areas: reproductive behavior, vocal communication, and stereotypies. The first presentation, “Behavioral predictors of copulation in captive Key Largo woodrats (Neotoma floridana smalli)”, will highlight an analysis of reproductive behavior in an endangered species endemic to Key Largo, Florida. The second presentation, “The structure and function of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) ‘rumble’ vocalization”, will focus on methods of assessing the functions of the rumble, the most common African elephant vocalization. The third presentation, “Towards a functional, foraging-based model of stereotypic activity in captive animals”, will discuss data in support of a “foraging loop” model of stereotypy in captive animals and describe interventions arising from this model. At the conclusion of the third presentation, a discussant will provide remarks synthesizing and critiquing the research presented.
Behavioral predictors of copulation in captive Key Largo woodrats (Neotoma floridana smalli)
CHRISTY A. ALLIGOOD (Education and Science, Disney's Animal Kingdom), Anne Savage (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
Abstract: The development of a captive breeding program for the endangered Key Largo woodrat (Neotoma floridana smalli) presents special challenges due to aggressive behavior toward conspecifics, a low reproductive rate, and limited information on estrous cycles. In an effort to identify behavioral predictors of copulation, we observed 17 Key Largo woodrats prior to and during 267 male–female pairing events, 76 of which resulted in copulation. Predictors of copulation include male–female interactions at the door of the tube connecting their enclosures, raspy vocalizations, pre-mounting lordosis, and chasing. A binary logistic regression model based on pre-pairing behaviors correctly predicted the outcome of 78.7% of observed pairing events, and a similar model based on intra-pairing behaviors correctly predicted the outcome of 86.1% of observed pairing events. Behavior-based models may be useful in the management of captive breeding programs for this and other endangered species.
The structure and function of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) ‘rumble’ vocalization
JOSEPH SOLTIS (Education and Science, Disney's Animal Kingdom), Katherine A. Leighty (Education and Science, Disney's Animal Kingdom), Anne Savage (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
Abstract: The rumble is the most common African elephant vocalization, but there is no consensus concerning its categorization into structural or functional subtypes. We collected audio, GPS and video data from adult female African elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. With these data, the social contexts of vocal activity, the subsequent behavior of signalers and receivers, and the acoustic structure of calls can be assessed. Two lines of evidence support two distinct functions for these vocalizations. First, elephants responded with a rumble preferentially to the rumbles of closely bonded social partners even when outside of the visual range, closely bonded animals moved closer together after such rumble exchanges, and individual identity is encoded in the acoustic structure of rumbles. Taken together, these data suggest that the elephant rumble functions as a ‘contact call’ that coordinates inter-partner movement. Second, during close distance interactions with dominant animals, subordinate elephants produced rumbles consistent with the expression of negative affect, and the production of such rumbles reduced the probability of subsequent aggression by dominant animals. These data suggest that the elephant rumble can also function as a ‘signal of submission’ toward social superiors.
Towards a functional, foraging-based model of stereotypic activity in captive animals
EDUARDO J. FERNANDEZ (University of Washington), William D. Timberlake (Indiana University)
Abstract: Behavioral stereotypies in captive animals have been defined as repetitive, largely invariant patterns of behavior that serve no obvious goal or function (Mason, 1991a; Ödberg, 1978). Stereotypies are commonly attributed to boredom and/or fear, and are typically “treated” by trying to enrich the captive environment with distracting, appealing stimuli. These stimuli often include food presented at times outside of regular feeding times, and as a result, engage species-typical foraging behaviors in the process of reducing stereotypic activity. The present talk examines the hypothesis that many stereotyped behaviors are related to scheduled daily feeding times, and thus reflect the expression of a repeating “loop” of species-typical search behaviors related to foraging for and procuring food. The form and likelihood of behavioral stereotypies are determined by the combination of temporal and environmental cues that predict food availability. In this view, many stereotyped behaviors are repeated because they are unsuccessful in changing the stimulus conditions sufficiently to evoke and support expression of the next set of behaviors in an ecological foraging sequence. Together these data supported two conclusions: (1) individual stereotypies include repeated components of species-specific foraging behavior, and (2) providing stimuli supporting a more complete sequence of naturally occurring foraging behaviors can reduce and/or eliminate stereotypies while supporting the expression of species and individual search behaviors. The data therefore suggest a “foraging loop” description of many appetitive-based stereotypies, as well as emphasizing interventions upon those stereotypies more specifically attending to when, where, and how captives are fed.



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