Response to novelty as an indicator of reptile welfare

Moszuti, Sophie A. and Wilkinson, Anna and Burman, Oliver H. P. (2017) Response to novelty as an indicator of reptile welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science . ISSN 0168-1591

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Abstract

Whilst a great deal of research has been focused on identifying ways to assess the welfare of captive
mammals and birds, there is comparatively little knowledge on how reptilian species are affected by
captivity, and the ways in which their welfare can be accurately assessed. The present study
investigated response to novelty - a commonly used approach to assess anxiety-like behaviour and
hence welfare in non-human animals – in two species of reptile with the aim of determining whether
this approach could be successfully translated from use in mammalian and avian species for use in
reptiles, and whether we could also identify reptile-specific and/or species-specific behaviours. Eight
red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria) and seventeen bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) were
observed individually in both familiar and novel environments for 10 minute time periods, and their
behaviour recorded. Tortoises were found to begin locomotion sooner when placed in a familiar
environment than when placed in a novel environment, they extended their necks further in a familiar
environment and their neck length increased over time in both familiar and novel environments,
suggesting an overall anxiety-like response to novelty as seen in non-reptilian species. In contrast,
whilst bearded dragons exhibited significantly more tongue-touches in a novel, compared to a
familiar, environment, they showed no difference between familiar and novel environments in their
latency to move. This result suggests that, whilst the dragons appeared to discriminate between the
two environments, this discrimination was not necessarily accompanied by an anxiety-like response.
This study has confirmed the translatability of response to novelty as an approach to assess anxiety-
like behaviour in one species of reptile, as well as identifying species-specific behaviours that have
the potential to be used in future studies when assessing the welfare of reptiles in response to captive
environments, but our results also highlight the need to be aware of species differences within a class
as diverse as reptilia.

Keywords:Reptile behaviour, Response to novelty, Animal welfare
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:26638
Deposited On:07 Mar 2017 12:18

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