Sex Differences in Mongolian Gerbils

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Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Adebisi Alao, at Canterbury Christ Church University: c.alao229@canterbury.ac.uk Sex differences in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) in an open-field test. Adebisi Alao

Canterbury Christ Church University

Abstract
This study was an observational study, which involved watching videos of four gerbils participating in an open field test. The study looked at sex differences in male and female gerbils, in terms of anxiety and explorative behaviour. There were two male gerbils and two female gerbils, each gerbil was observed for a period of ten minutes, to record the frequency number of line crossings, social interaction, interaction with toy and the time spent in the outer area and in the inner area. It was argued that there would be a difference in all areas of social behaviour. In general there were sex differences in gerbils and anxious behaviour. The line crossing, interaction with toy and the time spent in the inner area showed significantly that the female gerbils were more anxious but social contact and the time spent in the outer area showed significantly that the male gerbils were more anxious. Keywords: {Gerbil, explorative, anxiety, social contact, open field test, interaction with toy}

Naturally anxiety disorders are much more prominent in women than men (Bridges & Stark, 2004). Previous research that involved rats used only males to look at anxiety levels rather than females; this was due to the oestrous cycle in female rats, which makes it difficult to find a difference between male and female anxiety rate (Bridges & Stark, 2004). Social animals such as gerbils live in family groups when living in the wild, this means living individually increases the likelihood of being stressed and even anxious (Starkey, Normington & Bridges, 2007).

Earlier studies suggested that male rodents usually show much more fearful behaviour than females in an open field test, it could be due to strain or other factors (Archer 1974, as cited in Bridges & Starkey, 2004). Also recent studies have supported the idea that female rats show less anxiety when in an open field test, regardless of how bright the room is, but these effects were all down to strain (Ramos, Kangerski, Basso, Da Silva Santos, Assreuy, Vendruscolo, et al, 2002, as cited in Bridge & Starkey, 2004). According to (Johnston & File 1991, as cited in, Bridge & Starkey, 2004) social interaction depends on the familiarity of the environment to the rodent. When in an unfamiliar environment, female rats seemed to be more anxious than the male rats and in familiar environment it was the opposite. Social stress is another factor that causes anxiety. Studies have shown that when female rats were housed individually, they tended to be more anxious and less explorative than those housed as a group, while males revealed the opposite outcome (Palanza, Gioiosa & Parmigiani 2001, as cited in, Bridge & Starkey, 2004).

This study looks at male and female gerbils in an open field apparatus, allowing researchers to assess anxiety and explorative behaviour in gerbils. In this study toy interaction, line crossing and the time spent in the inner area all suggests that the gerbils are explorative and are really relaxed in that environment. However the time spent in the outer area and the social contact with other gerbils, suggests that the gerbils are anxious and also probably means that, they are not familiar with that environment.

Method
Design
The study was conducted by observing four gerbils in an open field test. The independent variable in this study was the gender of the gerbils and the dependent variables were the total duration spent in the inner area, the total duration spent in the outta area, frequency of social contact, frequency of toy interaction and the frequency of line-crossing. The study was a naturalistic observation making the study...
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