Candidate Review:

At the Edge: Neuroethological Approaches to Reptilian Mechanoreception

Duncan B. Leitch

Neuroscience Graduate Program, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, U1205 Medical Center North, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
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Abstract | Full Text | PDF

ABSTRACT | Insights into the organization and function of the nervous system have arisen through assimilation of a variety of experimental approaches ranging from molecular and cellular techniques to behavioral analyses. Similarly, neuroethology represents a field at the crossroads, fostering interdisciplinary research with methods familiar to zoology, physiology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology1. These efforts are unified in their foundations in understanding animal behavior and its underlying neural processes. However, given the complexity of nervous systems within highly developed animals, broader questions of the neural basis of behavior are explored through a comparative approach. Fundamental to these ideas is an appreciation for the “ethology” – that is, the behaviors observable both in animals’ natural habitats – balanced with the rigorous control of stimuli to elicit these patterns2.  Pioneering work from animal behaviorists Lorenz3, von Frisch4, and Tinbergen5 in the past century have provided a framework for investigation, as outlined in Tinbergen’s classification of four explanations for behavior6, which are equally relevant in approaching neuroethology.  Rather than broadly grouping proximate and ultimate explanations for behavior, Tinbergen argued that physiological and mechanistic bases, development or ontogeny, functional contributions to survival and reproduction, and evolutionary history or phylogeny provide a structure for addressing questions of ethology6,7.