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The Ontogeny of Predatory Behaviour in the Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus a. Auratus)

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An attempt was made to delineate the nature of the experiences involved in the ontogeny of the predatory response in golden hamsters (M. a. auratus). Two principal experiential phases were identified: pre-capture and post-capture. Encompassed within the pre-capture phase was the process of fear attentuation through habituation and the processes involved in the perfection of the prey-capture technique. Encompassed within the post-capture phase was prey-consumption. The experiments in this paper were designed to allow subjects to experience the pre-capture and post-capture phases independently or both together before being tested for the capture of locust nymphs (Locusta migratoria). Results showed: 1. Hamsters fed dead prey prior to test onset (post-capture phase) captured with relatively low latencies concomitant with high frequencies of the behaviours needed for capture. 2. Hamsters which experienced only the pre-capture phase showed the reverse: high latencies concomitant with low frequencies. 3. The response of capture became extinguished through prey removal after capture in hamsters with weak dispositions for capture. 4. Consumption of prey did not have to immediately follow capture in order for the predatory response to develop. Conclusions were: a) the act of capture was self-reinforcing, b) dead feed before capture, or eat following capture, served to strengthen the tendency for capture but not permit the perfection of the behaviours needed for capture. Similarities and differences between predation in the rat and predation in the hamster were discussed and the prevalence of the various types of learning in the ontogeny of mammalian predation was briefly noted.

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

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