Adult wheel access interaction with activity and boldness personality in Siberian dwarf hamsters (Phodopus sungorus)

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Individual animal personalities interact with environmental conditions to generate differences in behavior, a phenomenon of growing interest for understanding the effects of environmental enrichment on captive animals. Wheels are common environmental enrichment for laboratory rodents, but studies conflict on how this influences behavior, and interaction of wheels with individual personalities has rarely been examined. We examined whether wheel access altered personality profiles in adult Siberian dwarf hamsters. We assayed animals in a tunnel maze twice for baseline personality, then again at two and at seven weeks after the experimental group was provisioned with wheels in their home cages. Linear mixed model selection was used to assess changes in behavior over time and across environmental gradient of wheel exposure. While animals showed consistent inter-individual differences in activity, activity personality did not change upon exposure to a wheel. Boldness also varies among individuals, and there is evidence for female boldness scores converging after wheel exposure, that is, opposite shifts in behavior by high and low boldness individuals, although sample size is too small for the mixed model results to be robust. In general, Siberian dwarf hamsters appear to show low behavioral plasticity, particularly in general activity, in response to running wheels.

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Behavioural Processes

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