Abstract # 161:

Scheduled for Friday, August 18, 2006 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 17 (Regency West 1/3 ) Poster Presentation


Early predictors of self-biting in socially-housed rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

C. K. Lutz1, E. B. Davis2, A. M. Ruggiero1, N. Wang1 and S. J. Suomi1
1NIH/NICHD/Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, P.O. Box 529, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA, 2NIH/NICHD/Research Animal Management Branch
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     The development of self-biting behavior in captive monkeys poses a risk to their well-being. Although early rearing conditions can influence the expression of this behavior, not all animals reared in similar conditions self-bite. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of three rearing conditions on biting behavior and to determine whether early infant behavior can predict later self-biting. The subjects were 370 rhesus macaques born at the NIH Animal Center between 1994 and 2004. They were reared under three conditions: mother-reared in social groups (N=183), peer-reared in groups of four (N=84) and surrogate-peer-reared (N=103). More surrogate-peer-reared animals self-bit than peer-only or mother-reared (p<0.05). However, there was no sex difference in self-biting. Durations of behaviors were recorded on the surrogate-peer subjects in 5-minute sessions twice a week for 4 months while the animals were in their home cage and in their play groups. In the play cage, surrogate-reared subjects that later self-bit were less social and exhibited less social clinging than those that did not self-bite (p<0.05). Home cage behavior did not predict later self-biting, but it was affected by age: surrogate clinging and self-mouthing decreased, while environmental exploration increased (p<0.05). Our findings suggest that the surrogate rearing condition in combination with lower levels of social contact during play may be risk factors for the later development of self-biting behavior.