Open Access Environmental Modification and Agonistic Behavior in NIH/S Male Mice: Nesting Material Enhances Fighting but Shelters Prevent It

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Abstract:

Outbred NIH/S male mice were housed from weaning in groups of 4 without enrichment (control) or with nesting material (nest), nesting material and a box (nest-and-box), or nesting material and a tube (nest-and-tube) as environmental modification. The aim of the study was to investigate effects of widely recommended nesting material and additional shelters on male mice. The aggressiveness of the mice in their home cages clearly increased in the nest group, as assessed by the number of wounds. In the nest group, fighting was a stressful situation for the mice, leading to changes in weight gain and in the weights of the thymus, adrenals, spleen, and epididymal adipose tissue. Moreover, the agonistic behavior of these mice toward an intruder was increased both in individual tests (an intruder with the individual mouse) and group tests (an intruder with a group of mice). The provision of a box or tube as a shelter, in addition to nesting material, prevented intracage fighting and did not lead to alterations in the weight gain or organ weights of the mice. However, the agonistic behavior of mice with shelters was slightly increased in behavioral tests. Anxiety in the elevated plus-maze was not affected by any of the housing systems. In conclusion, the agonistic behavior of NIH/S mice, an aggressive strain, seemed to be easily enhanced by these environmental modifications. The suitability of any enrichment should be carefully evaluated, especially when highly aggressive mice are used.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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