Development of Predatory Behaviour in the Southern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys Torridus)

In: Behaviour
William M. Langley (Zoology Department, Arizona State University

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This study described the effects that maturation and experience had on the development of cricket-catching behaviour in the southern grasshopper mouse. The responses of eight groups of mice of different ages or backgrounds were compared. Mice from the field exhibited the most proficient searches, pursuits, and kills and committed fewer errors than the lab-reared mice. Of the groups of lab-reared mice, the 20-day-old mice were the least and the 70-day-old the most proficient attackers. Maturation primarily affected the mouse's first attack response. Mice younger than 23 days of age were more reluctant to attack a cricket the first time than older lab-reared mice. These maturational changes appeared related to when weaning normally occurs in grasshopper mice. Experience contributed to the development of attack proficiency in three ways: decrease in reluctance to attack, improved killing technique and recognition of a cricket as prey sooner during an encounter. Compared with hamsters, grasshopper mice exhibit a nearly complete functional attack response the first time and require much less experience from repeated trials to become proficient insect captors. The early and rapid development of a proficient attack response may be related to the grasshopper mouse's carnivorous life style.

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