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Behavioural syndromes in stereotypic striped mice

Silber, Sarah, Joshi, Sneha, Pillay, Neville
Applied animal behaviour science 2019 v.212 pp. 74-81
aggression, animal behavior, cages, captive animals, mice, motivation, personality, phenotype, social behavior
Stereotypical behaviours (SBs) are abnormal, repetitive behaviours often observed in captivity. SBs are linked to impoverished captive conditions, and stereotypic individuals show a particular set of behaviours (e.g. bolder personality, greater activity) indicating proactive coping. Yet, we do not know whether SB is part of a behavioural syndrome, showing consistent individual variation in functionally different behaviours. We investigated the behavioural correlates of SB in the striped mouse Rhabdomys dilectus. Individual stereotypic and non-stereotypic mice were tested in four behavioural assays, including: (1) home cage behaviour; (2) dyadic encounters to assess social interactions; (3) response to novelty and risk- taking; and (4) routines (perseveration) in a plus maze. We predicted that SB is associated with proactive coping and higher levels of perseveration, and that stereotypic individuals will show a behavioural syndrome. Stereotypic striped mice showed higher levels of activity, whereas non-stereotypic mice displayed higher levels of hiding. Social motivation was not associated with the occurrence/absence of SB. Stereotypic striped mice engaged more with a novel object and were faster to return to previous behaviour after a startle than non-stereotypic mice, which displayed a reactive coping style. Levels of perseveration were higher in stereotypic striped mice. In stereotypic mice, SB was significantly positively correlated with activity, response to a novel object, risk-taking and perseveration, but not aggression. Non-stereotypic mice showed far fewer correlations. We showed that stereotypic and non-stereotypic striped mice differ in several behavioural phenotypes, possibly linked to common underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Moreover, stereotypic individuals, in particular, displayed a behavioural syndrome by demonstrating within-group correlations of behaviours in different contexts.