Official 18 Task 3

Relict Behavior

In general, animals act in ways that help them to survive within their specific habitats. However, sometimes an animal species may display a behavior that no longer serves a clear purpose. The original purpose for the behavior may have disappeared long ago, even thousands of years ago. These behaviors, known as relict behaviors, were useful to the animals when the species’ habitat was different: but now, because of changed conditions, the behavior no longer serves its original purpose. Left over from an earlier time, the behavior remains as relict, or remnant, long after the environmental circumstance that influenced its evolution has vanished.

Narrator: Now listen to part of a lecture in a Biology class.
Professor: Okay, so a good example of this found right here in North America,
is something an animal called the American pronghorn does.
Pronghorns, as you may know, are a kind of deer-like animal.
They live out on the open grassy plains, somewhat in the middle of North America,
And they are super fast.
Pronghorns are in fact noted for being the fastest animal in the western hemisphere.
Once a pronghorn starts running, zoom.
None of its present-day predators, like the bobcat or coyote can even hope to catch up with it.
It's off in a flash.
Okay, so why then do pronghorns run so fast?
That's the question.
Well, it turns out that quite a long time ago,
I'm talking tens of thousands of years.
Things on the grassy plains used to be very different for the pronghorns,
because back then, lions used to live on the plains,
chasing and preying upon the pronghorns.
And lions of course, are a very swift-moving mammal,
much faster than the bobcat or coyote,
or other predators that you find on the plains today.
But now, however, lions are all extinct in North America.
There are no longer a predator of the pronghorn.
Tens of thousands of years ago though,
the lions were there chasing the pronghorns.
So back then the pronghorn's speed was critical to its survival.
Using the example of the pronghorn and lion, explain the concept of a relict behavior.