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The Ontogeny of Predatory Behaviour in the Golden Hamster (M. a. Auratus). Iii. Sensory Preexposure

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This paper represents a continuation in a series of experimental studies (POLSKY, 1977a, 1977b) on the ontogeny of predation in the golden hamster (M.a. auratus). The variable under scrutiny in the two experiments reported was sensory preexposure. Sensory preexposure was defined as "exposure to the sensory characteristics of the prey without the concomitant opportunity for capture". This was accomplished by inserting the prey (Locusta migratoria) into specially constructed perspex cubes into which naive hamsters could see and/or smell. Control subjects were exposed to empty cubes. Subjects were housed singly and each lived continuously with the appropriate type cube which was positioned on the floor of their testing compartment. Subsequently, subjects were tested for the capture of a fourth instar nymph. The principal measure was latency to capture; additional measures were exploration of the prey, withdrawal from the prey, nip at the prey, and unsuccessful capture. Collectively the results showed: 1. Preexposure enhanced the tendency for capture; 2. Preexposure through olfaction appeared to be the chief mediator of the effect; 3. The interval between preexposure and test was of minor importance; 4. The effects of preexposure early in ontogeny (26-31 days) were minimal if coupled with an early test (31 days) ; however, with the administration of a relatively late test (51 days), preexposure early in ontogeny was as affective as late preexposure (46-51 days). The above findings, along with the data from the other behaviours recorded, support the theory of a dichotomous function for what has been termed the "pre-capture" experience. One of the mechanisms of the pre-capture experience, that of fear habituation through sensory exposure, was then discussed in relation to "priming" studies in other rodent species.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, England

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