Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fine-scale behaviors vs. Coarse-scale movements

One of the central things I am focusing on with the toad experiments, besides learning, is exploratory behavior. This is something that has been very challenging to think about, because toads aren't usually thought of as 'explorers'. Most animals used for these types of experiments are mammals and birds, who have very specific behaviors that can be characterized as 'exploratory' (i.e. a mouse moving it's whiskers and sniffing an object, or a bird turning its head to look about itself). Toads, however, don't really have fine-scale movements that are historically classified as exploratory. From watching them for so long, I know that they will re-position their heads and bodies to see an object or area better, but it's very hard to tell if they're doing that from the camera angle that we have, which is what we need to get the entire arena in the video frame. It's a trade-off I had to make at the very beginning of the experiment - I couldn't have fine scale video that would capture all of the toads' behaviors, AND coarse-scale video that could capture the entire arena. Clearly, I chose coarse-scale. In the end, I'm more interest about the movement of the toads around the arena, rather than their movement in a specific area or context.

Coarse-scale: The whole arena is in the picture, but you can't really see what the toad is doing
(can you spot the toad in the picture?) 

Fine-scale: A great view of the toad's body position, posture and behavior, but we can't see the whole arena
(not good for pinpointing location within the arena)

BUT.... I'm still interested in exploratory behavior. So what to do, what to do?

Do you have any ideas for me? How can we still look at exploration without being able to see what the toad is doing up close?

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