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Our Character Depends On Our Genes: Traces Can Be Found In The Animal World - By Antonio Giordano

Our Character Depends On Our Genes: Traces Can Be Found In The Animal World - By Antonio Giordano

Antonio Giordano* – Ethology or behavioural biology focus not only on the behaviour of animals in their natural environment but also of man, as they belong, by Aristotelian definition, to the sphere of "social animals".


Konrad Lorenz was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine for his studies on the physiology of behaviour and is considered the father of modern ethology.


The scientific discipline developed by Lorenz turned out to be the "comparative study" of human and animal behaviour. An anecdote of animal behaviour and episodes relating to the animal world in literature in Orwell's "Animal Farm" are emblematic of struggles for supremacy or standoff. For example, if an octopus, a moray eel and a lobster are trapped in a net, since the octopus fears the moray, the lobster fears the octopus and the moray eels fears the lobster, the three species will adopt a behaviour of stall, thereby avoiding facing each other.


The cuckoo, on the other hand, is known for a peculiar characteristic: the "brood parasitism". A female cuckoo lays eggs in the nest of other birds of the same or different species.


Since the nest is ready and the brooding is already underway, the cuckoo's eggs will hatch in a shorter time than the others, and soon the cuckoos will get rid of the unfortunate eggs.

Lorenz was the first to identify the Imprinting mechanism, observing geese and a puppy dogs who, in a period of 4-8 weeks, were already able to recognize themselves, other dogs and humans. Both ethology and comparative psychology, which studies the instinct and the dynamics of behaviour in the different species of animals, including man, tell also us a lot about human behaviour as in fact there is a branch of behavioural psychology in ethological perspective.


Ethology questions the dichotomy between (animal) instinct and learning. Konrad Lorenz underlined the innate and genetically determined behaviour, the instinct, independent of the external environment. In fact, there are hereditary mechanisms in animals. Even the personality of man is influenced by inherited genes since choice and taste are often genetically determined, as are attitude and skills.


Ethology refers to the study of animal behaviour and, when we compare it to the human behaviour, we find impressive similarities, deducing that the latter is the sum of nature, genetics, imprinting, cultural and environmental influences. With a good scientific approximation, we can find the defects and merits of human society in the animal world, and vice versa.


*President of the Sbarro Institute of Philadelphia - professor at the University of Siena, coordinator of the PNRR environment and health program group for the Ministry of Health


Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., is the creator and head of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, located at Temple University's College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia. Stay connected with him through his various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to receive the latest updates.

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