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The Ontogeny of Predatory Behaviour in the Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus a. Auratus). IV. Effects of Prolonged Exposure, Iti, Size of Prey and Selective Breeding

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As an outgrowth of previous experimental work (POLSKY, 1977a, 1977b, 1977c) this paper presents findings which examined the influence of the following variables on the development of predatory behaviour in golden hamsters (M. a. auratits) : (a) prolonged exposure to the prey; (b) the interval between successive prey presentations (ITI) ; (c) the size of prey, and (d) selective breeding. Nymphs of Locusta migratoria served as prey. The basic methodology consisted of testing naive hamsters individually for the capture of a locust in their own home compartment. The principal measure was latency to capture; in addition, in Experiment 3 the frequency of exploration of the prey, withdrawal from the prey, nip at the prey and unsuccessful capture were recorded. Results showed: 1. Increasing familiarization with the prey via prolonged exposure resulted in an increase in the incidence of capture. 2. Latency to capture decreased significantly with repeated testing when the prey was presented at intervals of five or ten days; no significant decrease occurred when the prey was presented at intervals of one day. Further, the response of capture remained intact in established captors after a period of seventy days without the opportunity for capture. 3. Large prey were captured with relatively high latencies by forty day old hamsters; overall, forty day old hamsters, when compared with seventy day old hamsters, also showed a greater frequency of the behaviours associated with capture. 4. Prey capture was susceptible to the effects of selective breeding. The above results were discussed within the framework of habituation (Experiment i), methodological procedures and the stability of the prey capture response (Experiment 2), the relative size between predator and prey (Experiment 3) and genetic predispositions for capture (Experiment 4). Areas for future research were suggested.

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


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