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Experience and Selection Behavior in the Food Habits of Peromyscus: Use of Olfaction

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Feeding behavior in young and adult Peromyscus maniculalus and P. lcucopus was studied by examining the extent to which food habit could be modified by prior experience and by decribing the pattern of feeding behavior used by the mice in a three-choice situation. Modifiability of food preferences was investigated by providing mice with specific food-cue experience and testing their subsequent preferences. The food preferences of young and adult P. leucopus and young P. m. baiudi were significantly affected by the food-cue conditioning and the effect persisted for at least 30 days. Adult P. m. bairdi food preferences were not affected by the prior experience. Automatic monitoring devices were used to describe the patterning of feeding behavior with three choices present. Analyses showed that; (1) young mice were less flexible initially than adult mice; (2) adult P. leucopus switched feeding sites more frequently than any other group; and (3) young P. m. bairdi avoided a novel food-cue stimulus whereas the other test groups ate readily from this source. The principal conclusion was that P. leucopus exhibited more flexibility in feeding behavior than P. m. bairdi. Food habits and flexibility of feeding behavior were discussed in relation to the habitat distributions of these two species of mice.

Affiliations: 1: Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A.


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