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Free Course on Animal Behaviour

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by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
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Learn about what drives animal behaviour
Did you know that female trout fake orgasm? Did you know that the star-faced mole is the fastest eating mammal in the world? Did you know that Emperor penguins sometimes try to 'kidnap' the chicks of other penguins? These are all strange facts about animal behaviour; more details below.

Emperor penguins
Emperor penguins... may try to steal the chicks of others


If you find this sort of information fascinating, then I have the course for you! Coursera is offering a free course on animal behaviour, starting on 2nd June. The course explores how scientists study animal behaviour, and in particular how behaviour is shaped by the evolutionary forces of natural and sexual selection. The focus is on wild, not domestic, animals.

The good news is, there is NO need to complete assignments (unless you want to), and NO pre-requisite study is necessary. All lectures are available online.

If however you are considering a career or further study in this field, or would enjoy the satisfaction of completing all the course requirements, then it is possible to complete the assessment work and obtain a Statement of Accomplishment.

So what's the time commitment for this course? The classes consist of lecture videos, which are broken into small chunks of 10-15 minutes in duration (total lecture video content 1-1.5 hours per week, for 8 weeks). In addition to the weekly lecture videos, there will be a number of 'researcher meets', where students can interact with current researchers in animal behaviour in a live video discussion forum.

Female trout
Female brown trout can apparently fake orgasm!


The lecture videos contain 1-2 integrated quiz questions per video (which are not graded). There are weekly graded homeworks, which take the form of multiple choice quizzes, and a peer-graded writing assignment (if you choose to complete the assessment component).

The topics to be included in the course include:

*Behaviour, ecology and natural selection

*Genes, environment and learning

*Finding food and avoiding predators

*Communication

*Sexual selection and sperm competition

*Mating systems and sex allocation

*Parental care and conflict

*Social behaviour.

If you'd like more information about this course, please go to the website.

Coursera is also offering a wide range of other courses; for more information, go to the website.


And now for some more information about those strange animal behaviours:

Female brown trout (Salmo trutta) fake orgasms to encourage a male they consider inferior to prematurely ejaculate. Their partner thinks it has successfully mated, and the female fish then moves on to find a more satisfactory partner.

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is the fastest-eating mammal in the world, capable of devouring a snack of worms in 227 milliseconds. Sounding rather like something out of Dr Who, it uses 22 pink fleshy tentacles that adorn its face, each highly sensitive to touch.

star nosed mole
The rather strange looking star-nosed mole


Adult emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) attempt to kidnap the chicks of other breeding pairs. They wrestle the juvenile away from its parents, who try to protect the chick by fighting back. Kidnapping often occurs when a penguin that has failed to breed sees a chick begging its parents to be fed, and interprets the juvenile's behaviour as a cue to parent it.
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Why? Because animals are fascinating to study!
When: From 2nd June 2014 for 8 weeks
Where: Online
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Thank you for recommending this, I have just joined the class!
by Chery (score: 0|4) 1034 days ago
Aw man! I want to do it but am already doing 5 subjects this semester, boohoo.
by Mallory (score: 2|465) 1032 days ago
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