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Effect of Domestication on Aggression in Gray Norway Rats

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Abstract

A comparative analysis of intermale aggression in the resident–intruder test was conducted with gray rats from a wild unselected population bred at the laboratory for three generations and gray rats selected for elimination (tame) and enhancement (aggressive) of aggressiveness towards human for 71–72 generations. Males from the laboratory line Wistar were used as neutral opponents. Rats from the tame line were characterized by reduced aggression manifest as longer attack latency, decreased number of attacks, upright postures, chases, kicks, and shorter total time of aggressive behavior compared to unselected males. There was no significant difference in the attack latency and the total time of aggression between rats of the aggressive line and unselected rats. A trend to decrease in the number of attacks, chases and upright postures and to increase in contribution of lateral threat postures to the total time of aggression was observed for males of the aggressive line. Plasma corticosterone in unselected males not presented with intruders and after their presentation was higher than in males of both selected lines. Comparative behavioral analysis of agonistic behaviors in rats from the aggressive and tame lines to opponents of different lines (Wistar, tame, aggressive) showed that the presence of an intruder from the aggressive line can enhance aggressive responses in residents from the tame line. Thus, selection for domestication of gray rats caused a significant attenuation of aggressive behavior without affecting the basic agonistic repertoire.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to A. Fadeeva for help during preparation of the manuscript. We also thank R. Kozhemyakina for her assistance with experimental procedure. This study was supported by grant 08-04-01412 from the Russian Fund of Basic Research.

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Correspondence to Irina Z. Plyusnina.

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Edited by Stephen Maxson.

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Plyusnina, I.Z., Solov’eva, M.Y. & Oskina, I.N. Effect of Domestication on Aggression in Gray Norway Rats. Behav Genet 41, 583–592 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-010-9429-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-010-9429-y

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