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The effects of social experience on play and agonistic behavior in the golden hamster and the Mongolian gerbil Skirrow, Margaret Helen Wort


To determine the effects of different social conditions on play and agonistic behaviour, 25-day old golden hamsters and Mongolian gerbils were divided into four groups which differed with respect to social experience after weaning. Every day, from 26 to 61 days of age, the young hamsters were observed for numbers and durations of fight-type interactions in a 15-minute period. Every third or sixth day from 27 to 60 days of age, the gerbils were similarly tested. Seven to 14 percent of play fights between hamsters involved more than two animals simultaneously. Communally reared hamsters mixed with strangers played with strangers 71 percent of the time, while 90 percent of real fights involved strangers. Neither of these measures involved the effects of early social experience. Isolation causes earlier cessation of play and earlier onset of real fights in golden hamsters. Isolation also leads to a significant increase in the amount of play and real fighting in these animals. Gerbils raised in isolation with a toy show significantly more play than do gerbils reared under different social conditions. Gerbils reared communally with the mother fight significantly more with strangers than they do with familar animals, and fight significantly more than do animals reared communally with siblings, or in isolation with or without a ping pong ball.

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