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Ontogeny of the Orienting-Jump Response of the Rabbit

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The ontogeny of a defensive-threat posture of the adult rabbit, designated the orienting-jump response, was studied in New Zealand white rabbits from birth by stimulating one side of the body with a blunt probe. A number of components of this response were found to develop at different rates postnatally: oriented jump towards side of stimulation; hind limb thrust; vocalization; fore-limb stab; bite-attack; directed escape; striking ground with hind-limb (appel). It was shown therefore, that several components become incorporated during ontogeny into a complex species-specific response, which might, in the absence of ontogenetic evidence, be thought to be a simple fixed action pattern. It is hypothesized that the tendency to escape from and to orient towards a noxious stimulus (such as a predator) might contribute to the erratic zig-zag escape pattern in this species.

Affiliations: 1: (Galesburg State Research Hospital, Galesburg, Illinois, U.S.A.


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