Academic Writing

Writing paragraphs: Test

1. Topic Sentences

Read the following text. Identify the topic sentence in each paragraph. Show your answers to someone. If you are in one of my classes, e-mail the answers to me. 


Comparative studies of animals help to show how man’s space requirements are influenced by his environment. In animals we can observe the direction, the rate, and the extent of changes in behaviour that follow changes in space available to them as we can never hope to do in men. For one thing, by using animals it is possible to accelerate time, since animal generations are relatively short. A scientist can, in forty years, observe four hundred and forty generations of mice, while he has in the same span of time seen only two generations of his own kind. And, of course, he can be more detached about the fate of animals.

In addition, animals don’t rationalise their behaviour and thus obscure issues. In their natural state, they respond in an amazingly consistent manner so that it is possible to observe repeated and virtually identical performances. By restricting our observations to the way animals handle space, it is possible to learn an amazing amount that is translatable to human terms.

Territoriality, a basic concept in the study of animal behaviour, is usually defined as behaviour by which an organism characteristically lays claim to an area and defends it against members of its own species. It is a recent concept, first described by the English ornithologist H. B. Howard in his Territory in Bird Life, written in 1920. Howard stated the concept in some detail, though naturalists as far back as the seventeenth century had taken note of various events which Howard recognised as manifestations of territoriality.

Territoriality studies are already revising many of our basic ideas of animal life and human life as well. The expression “free as a bird” is an encapsulated form of man’s conception of his relation to nature. He sees animals as free to roam the world, while he himself is imprisoned by society. Studies of territoriality show that the reverse is closer to the truth and that animals are often imprisoned in their own territories. It is doubtful if Freud, had he known what is known today about the relation of animals to space, could have attributed man’s advances to trapped energy redirected by culturally imposed inhibitions.

Many important functions are expressed in territoriality, and new ones are constantly being discovered. H. Hediger, Zurich’s famous animal psychologist, described the most important aspects of territoriality and explained succinctly the mechanisms by which it operates. Territoriality, he says, insures the propagation of the species by regulating density. It provides a frame in which things are done - places to learn, places to play, safe places to hide. Thus it coordinates the activities of the group and holds the group together. It keeps animals within communicating distance of each other, so that the presence of food or an enemy can be signalled. An animal with a territory of its own can develop an inventory of reflex responses to terrain features. When danger strikes, the animal on its home ground can take advantage of automatic responses rather than having to take time to think about where to hide.

The psychologist C. R. Carpenter, who pioneered in the observation of monkeys in a native setting, listed thirty-two functions of territoriality, including important ones relating to the protection and evolution of the species. The list that follows is not complete, nor is it representative of all species, but it indicates the crucial nature of territoriality as a behavioural system, a system that evolved in very much the same way as anatomical systems evolved. In fact, differences in territoriality have become so widely recognised that they are used as a basis for distinguishing between species, much as anatomical features are used.

Territoriality offers protection from predators, and also exposes to predation the unfit who are too weak to establish and defend a territory. Thus, it reinforces dominance in selective breeding because the less dominant animals are less likely to establish territories. On the other hand territoriality facilitates breeding by providing a home base that is safe. It aids in protecting the nests and the young in them. In some species it localises waste disposal and inhibits or prevents parasites. Yet one of the most important functions of territoriality is proper spacing, which protects against over-exploitation of that part of the environment on which a species depends for its living.

In addition to preservation of the species and the environment, personal and social functions are associated with territoriality. C. R. Carpenter tested the relative roles of sexual vigour and dominance in a territorial context and found that even a desexed pigeon will in its own territory regularly win a test encounter with a normal male, even though desexing usually results in loss of position in a social hierarchy. Thus, while dominant animals determine the general direction in which the species develops, the fact that the subordinate can win (and so breed) on his home grounds helps to preserve plasticity in the species by increasing variety and thus preventing the dominant animals from freezing the direction which evolution takes.

Territoriality is also associated with status. A series of experiments by the British ornithologist A. D. Bain on the great tit altered and even reversed dominance relationships by shifting the position of feeding stations in relation to birds living in adjacent areas. As the feeding station was placed closer and closer to a bird’s home range, the bird would accrue advantages it lacked when away from its own home ground.

Man, too, has territoriality and he has invented many ways of defending what he considers his own land, turf, or spread. The removal of boundary markers and trespass upon the property of another man are punishable acts in much of the Western world. A man’s home has been his castle in English common law for centuries, and it is protected by prohibitions on unlawful search and seizure even by officials of his government. The distinction is carefully made between private property, which is the territory of an individual, and public property, which is the territory of the group.

This cursory review of the functions of territoriality should suffice to establish the fact that it is a basic behavioural system characteristic of living organisms including man.

From The hidden dimension by Edward T Hall.

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