Comparative Neuroethology of Startle, Rapid Escape, and Giant Fiber-Mediated Responses

  • Theodore Holmes Bullock


In this chapter I will explore the relationship between startle responses, rapid escape responses, and behaviors that are mediated by giant fibers. Are these independent, overlapping, or coextensive sets? It might be thought on superficial perusal of this book that it seems to support a view of these categories as being nearly universal, even if not quite coextensive. In their 1939 book The Startle Pattern, Landis and Hunt implied that this form of response seems confined to mammals. I will argue that all three categories are very ancient and widely distributed but by no means universal, and that they are in fact partially overlapping sets. This will require a brief survey of the animal kingdom with respect to criteria for each of the three categories of response. Hopefully, we will arrive at preferred usages for the terms and clear the air for conclusions about congruence of the three sets. This is no quibble over words, but an essential step toward the goal of contributing some well worked out examples of neuroethology—the adequate accounting for behavior in neural terms. The selection of papers in this book on a special class of behaviors is relevant not only to neuroethology but, as I will point out, to general neurobiology as well.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore Holmes Bullock
    • 1
  1. 1.Neurobiology Unit, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Department of Neurosciences, School of MedicineUniversity of California at San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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