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Open Access The Effects of Four Nursery Rearing Strategies on Infant Behavioral Development in Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta)

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Nursery rearing is the single most important risk factor in the development of severe forms of abnormal behavior, such as self-biting, in rhesus macaques. This practice is common in research laboratories and typically involves continuous pair housing of infants without maternal contact. We examined the effects of variation in peer socialization on the behavioral development of rhesus infants by exposing 32 newborn infants to 4 different socialization routines: continuously paired; intermittently paired; continuously paired rotationally (partners rotated within the group once a week); and intermittently paired rotationally. Analyses revealed that infants paired intermittently exhibited 'floating limb' and self-biting behavior at significantly higher frequencies than those reared by using any other strategy. Results also suggested that continuous pairing was most effective in reducing the development of abnormal behaviors (that is, self-bite and floating limb), whereas intermittent pairing significantly reduced partner clinging and geckering. A principal component analysis revealed that floating limb behavior and self-biting are strongly associated. Self-biting began as early as 32 d of age, and a negative binomial regression on data of floating limb and self-biting revealed that early development of floating limb behavior predicts self-biting behavior later in development. Despite the significant effects of rearing strategies on the frequency of abnormal behaviors, we note that animals in all 4 treatment groups developed these traits to some degree. We suspect that the solitary incubator environment may be a trigger for the development of abnormal behaviors.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Animal Behavior Graduate Group, The University of California, Davis, California 2: The California National Primate Research Center, The University of California, Davis, California 3: The California National Primate Research Center, The University of California, Davis, California; School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Population, Health, and Reproduction, The University of California, Davis, California

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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