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Bioacoustics in Applied Animal Behaviour Science

To: Bioacoustics <>
Subject: Bioacoustics in Applied Animal Behaviour Science
From: Alan McElligott <>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 12:31:30 +0000 (GMT)
Please contact the authors if you would like a copy of the paper.

 Oliver H.P. Burman,  Alexander Ilyat, Gareth Jones and Michael Mendla

Ultrasonic vocalizations as indicators of welfare for laboratory rats (Rattus 

                   Applied Animal Behaviour Science                             

   Volume 104, Issues 1-2           ,   April 2007,   Pages 116-129 


aDivision of Animal Health and Husbandry, Department of Clinical Veterinary 
Science, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford BS40 5DU, UK

bSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol 
BS8 1UG, UK 


Adult laboratory rats produce two distinct types of ultrasonic vocalization 
(USV) that appear to reflect the caller's emotional state, either positive (50 
kHz) or negative (22 kHz). If these calls can influence the emotional state and 
related behaviour of group-mates, then such calls may act as useful indicators 
of welfare for not only the vocalizing rat, but also other non-vocalizing 
individuals within auditory range. We therefore investigated the effect of 
playing back these different USVs on the behaviour of rats in an emergence 
test, a test of anxiety. In an initial experiment, we compared the response of 
20 rats to playback of either background noise or to playbacks of 22 kHz 
vocalizations from conspecifics. Rats that received playback of the 22 kHz USVs 
were less likely to emerge, showed an increased latency to emerge and spent 
less total time in the open arena than rats receiving playback of background 
noise, suggesting a state of increased anxiety. In a second
 experiment, the same 20 rats received playback of either background noise or 
50 kHz vocalizations from conspecifics. Rats receiving 50 kHz USV playback 
showed no difference in emergence behaviour to those rats receiving background 
noise. Taken together, these results suggest that 22 kHz USVs can induce a 
negative emotional state of increased anxiety in rats hearing the vocalization, 
and could therefore be a useful indicator of welfare for rat groups; including 
both callers and non-calling group-mates. 

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Dr. Alan McElligott

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