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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2004

Exploration and risk assessment: a comparative study of male house mice (Mus musculus musculus) and two laboratory strains

Augustsson H, Meyerson BJ


The ability to gather information and assess risks in novel environments is crucial for survival and fitness in the wild. Our aim was to characterise behavioural strategies of exploration and risk assessment in novel environments and to investigate in what respects wild house mice differ from domesticated mice. A total of 39 adult male mice from three genetic backgrounds (Wild, BALB/c, and C57BL/6) were tested in three behavioural tests, the concentric square field (CSF), a modified open field (OF), and a conventional elevated plus maze (EPM). In addition to spatial measures, behavioural measures of exploration and risk assessment were registered. The parameters were categorised according to their relevance to activity, exploration, approach-avoidance, and use of open areas/shelter. Wild mice had lower activity and a higher avoidance of open areas than the laboratory strains. No differences were found in exploratory motivation. The BALB/c mice avoided risk areas and showed high risk assessment (SAP), whereas C57BL/6 mice were more explorative and risk taking and showed little risk assessment. Wild mice seemed to have a different behavioural strategy of risk assessment in being more cautious before entering a potentially dangerous zone but explored all zones after assessed as nonrisky. A principal component analysis (PCA) of the animals' behaviour in the CSF arena supported these findings by clearly separating the three strains on the basis of their behavioural performances. It is concluded that there are obvious differences in behavioural strategies related to risk assessment and risk taking among wild mice versus domesticated house mice and also among laboratory strains. The relationship between the animal's risk concern and adaptability is discussed and should be a matter of importance considering animal welfare as well as the experimental aim and protocol. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

Published in

Physiology and Behavior
2004, volume: 81, number: 4, pages: 685-698

Authors' information

Augustsson, Hanna (Sassner, Hanna)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Bengt, Meyersson

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science
Veterinary Science

Publication Identifiers


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