How to Create a Useful Ethogram: a Comprehensive List of Animal Behaviors

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This article is a guideline for creating a behavioral list for animal field observational work. It explains the necessity and use of the ethogram.

Animal studies field work can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a person’s life. I have done a great deal of both captive studies, done at a zoo, and field studies, done everywhere else. Though each situation is different there are some report structures that are constant.

Every behavioral study starts with the development of the ethogram. The ethogram is quite simply a list of observed behaviors as pertains specifically to your study subject. Some behaviors are common to every animal and some are species specific. The Lion Tailed Macaque ethogram listed below is the first one I ever created and I have worked off it ever since, changing the definitions and adding newly observed behaviors given whatever set of new variables that I was dealing with. Every ethogram is different for any given species. It has to be altered less for similar species, for example, it is easy to modify this ethogram to observe a different species of primate. It’s more work if you are observing platypuses, but the structure is the same.