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The Behaviour of Periplaneta Americana in a Critical Situation and the Variation With Age

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With precautions to avoid panic, individuals of Periplaneta americana were released on an island 20 cms square in water 2 cms deep, each experiment lasting not more than 30 minutes. Most adults escaped within about 10 minutes, mainly by jumping into the water before swimming away: those which did not escape showed prolonged grooming and quiescence. Abnormal defaecation was common. Six successive nymphal instars were also tested: with decreasing size fewer escapes occurred and fewer by an initial jump, the time taken to escape increased, the amount of displacement and conflict behaviour decreased and defaecation was less common; nymphs of the smallest instar tested, about 11 mm long, were capable of swimming, but none escaped. Nymphs of two small instars were tested on smaller islands proportionate to their size; the performance was not significantly different from that on the full-sized island. The provision of a shelter had no marked effect on the performance. Testing in groups reduced the percentage of escapes. Some successful adults were tested a second time, after an interval of not less than five days: escape was more rapid, except in one case where escape did not occur and the amount of quiescence and grooming was the highest recorded. It is suggested that the source of the motivation towards escape is a complex one. It is also suggested that the development of the behaviour might be correlated with neurological development.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Zoology, Univ. of Groningen, Netherlands and Dept. of Zoology, Univ. of Glasgow, U.K.


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