Effects of odor familiarity on the development of systematic exploration in the spiny mouse, Acomys cahirinus.


Developmental changes in patterns of exploration by infant spiny mice, Acomys cahirinus are described. These were investigated using an unbaited radial maze and under three odor conditions; that is, animals were tested in the presence of either familiar (own) odors, unfamiliar conspecific odors, or no odors (washed floor). Two hypotheses were tested. The first was based on the results of a pilot study, and was that adult animals would explore the radial maze in a systematic and predictable fashion tending to move from one arm to the next sequentially. It was hypothesized that infants would adopt this sequential strategy only gradually, as they matured. The second hypothesis was that such patterns of exploration would depend upon the olfactory environment; the presence of familiar odors might facilitate systematic patterns of exploration in very young Acomys. The results showed that both adults and juveniles were less likely to move sequentially when tested with no conspecific odor present; sequential patterns of movement were most likely in the presence of unfamiliar odor, however. The only significant change with age in infants was found for animals tested with unfamiliar odors; these animals showed a dramatic increase in sequential behavior between 3 and 7 days of age. Two additional experiments are reported, which investigated the preferences of infant Acomys for unfamiliar conspecific odors, and it was found that very young (about 3 days) animals exhibit a preference for odors derived from unfamiliar conspecific litters, even when tested in the physical presence of their own parents. The results are discussed with reference to the use of olfactory information as directional cues for animals exploring the radial maze.

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@article{Birke1987EffectsOO, title={Effects of odor familiarity on the development of systematic exploration in the spiny mouse, Acomys cahirinus.}, author={Lothar Birke and David Sadler}, journal={Developmental psychobiology}, year={1987}, volume={20 6}, pages={627-40} }