Association between personality and stereotypic behaviours in the African striped mouse Rhabdomys dilectus

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Sneha Joshi, Neville Pillay
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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Stereotypic behaviours, which are abnormal, repetitive and invariant behaviours caused by frustration and/or central nervous system dysfunction, develop as a result of sub-optimal captive conditions that provide inadequate motor and sensory stimulation. However, not all individuals housed under such conditions develop stereotypic behaviours. One hypothesis to explain such variation is personality (i.e. individual) differences. We tested this hypothesis in the African striped mouse Rhabdomys dilectus and predicted that stereotypic individuals would have a bolder personality and a proactive coping style than non-stereotypic individuals. We conducted two experiments. In the first experiment, adult stereotypic and non-stereotypic striped mice were tested for their personality using three tests (i.e. light–dark, startle-response and novel-object tests). Subsequently, we recorded the behaviours of individuals every second day for 30 days in standard laboratory housing. Stereotypic striped mice were proactive and showed a bolder personality type by spending longer time in the light compartment after a startle response, showed greater manipulation of cage objects and were more active than non-stereotypic individuals in standard housing. In the second experiment, we tested the personality of juvenile striped mice before the onset of stereotypic behaviours. Again, the startle response test correlated with the onset of stereotypic behaviour in adults, with stereotypic mice that spent more time in the light compartment (i.e. bolder) showing a greater likelihood of displaying stereotypic behaviours later. Although our data provides support for the association between personality and stereotypic behaviour, these group-level effects (stereotypic vs. non-stereotypic) were not evident at the individual level, particularly for stereotypic mice. Therefore, having a proactive coping style did not predict the onset of stereotypic behaviour for all stereotypic individuals, highlighting individual trajectories for the development of stereotypic behaviours.


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