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Increased reproductive output in stereotypic captive Rhabdomys females: potential implications for captive breeding

By M. A. Jones, M. van Lierop, G. Mason, N. Pillay

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Captive animal populations can diverge considerably from populations in the wild, despite the animals not being deliberately domesticated. If the phenotypes which are of benefit in captivity are heritable, the genotypes of captive-stock can diverge swiftly and substantially from wild-stock. Using striped mice, Rhabdomys, we tested the relationship between reproductive output and stereotypic behaviour, a heritable repetitive abnormal behaviour common in captive wild animals. Individuals (n=120; 60[male], 60[female]) were assigned to pairs in one of four treatment groups formed from combinations of non-stereotypic and stereotypic mothers and fathers, and various measures of reproductive output were recorded. Reproductive output (e.g. total number of offspring) for stereotypic females (but not stereotypic males) was significantly greater than for non-stereotypic striped mice. We suggest that, overall, unintended selection is likely to increase the incidence of stereotypic behaviour in a captive striped mouse population because (1) stereotypic females breed more successfully than non-stereotypic striped mice, and (2) genetic variance underlies the trait. The potential implications of these findings for the validity of behavioural studies using captive-bred wild animals and for conservation breeding programmes are discussed.

Date 2010
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 123
Issue 1/3
Pages 63-69
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.12.013
Language English
Author Address School of Animal, Plant, and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, WITS 2050, South
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal genetics
  4. Animal roles
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Biological resources
  7. Breeding
  8. Breeding programs
  9. Conservation
  10. Deviant behavior
  11. Fitness
  12. Genetics
  13. Genetic variation
  14. Genotypes
  15. Incidence
  16. Mammals
  17. Mice
  18. mothers
  19. phenotypes
  20. progeny
  21. Reproduction
  22. Research
  23. Rodents
  24. Studies
  25. Wild animals
  26. Zoo and captive wild animals
  27. Zoology