Essay topics: 1. Many birds engage in anting, a behavior in which a bird approaches a colony of ants (small insects), picks up ants with its beak, and rubs the ants on its feathers. Since ants instinctively defend themselves by spraying formic acid, the bird ends up with formic acid on its feathers and skin. There are several theories about the possible benefit that birds get from anting.
Relief of Skin Irritation during Feather Change:
Anting behavior typically takes place during the summer. This fact leads some scientists to believe that the function of anting is to relieve skin irritation that birds feel, especially during summer months. In summer, birds lose old feathers and grow new ones. The formic acid, which the birds apply to their feathers and skin through anting, may act as a kind of skin lotion, helping to soothe the skin irritation caused by feather loss and replacement.
Protection against Parasites:
Another theory is that the formic acid helps the birds protect themselves from external parasites, such as mites and ticks, that can infest their feathers or skin. In antingso the theory goes a bird is essentially using the formic acid that it spreads over its feathers and skin as a chemical defense against parasites.
A third theory is that the release of formic acid makes it possible for the birds to feed on the ants. Formic acid tastes bitter; if the birds provoke ants into releasing the formic acid, the bitter taste is removed from the ants' bodies and the birds can feed on the ants without tasting the bitterness. So, according to this theory, anting is just a way for birds to make sure the ants taste good.
Directions: You have 20 minutes to plan and write your response. Your response will be judged on the basis of the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the points in the lecture and their relationship to the reading passage. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words.
Question: Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they cast doubt on the specific points made in the reading passage.
The professor casts doubt on the reading passage’s idea that the three theories can account for the birds’ anting behavior. The professor asserts that these three theories are unconvincing.
First, the reading mentions that the anting behavior helps birds to relieve the skin irritation during feather change due to the fact that the two things both happen in summer. However, the lecturer declares that it is the high activity of ants in summer that results in the same time of birds’ anting coincidentally since the ants can be found more easily, which can dramatically weaken the validity of this theory.
Second, contrary to the reading’s belief that the formic acid prevents birds from external parasites, the professor points out that the birds which engage in anting have not been found less likely to encounter parasites as expected.
Finally, the reading believes that this behavior occurs when birds attempt to stimulate the ants to release the formic acid which tastes bitter, thus they can feed on the ants with a better taste. The lecturer, on the other hand, states that the birds rub the ants on their feather unintentionally and they may also rub other things which cannot be eaten, which means that these two things are irrelevant.
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