Prey species show specific adaptations that allow recognition, avoidance, and defense against predators. This study was undertaken to investigate the processing of a chronic, life-threatening stimulus to Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). One hundred forty-four Norway rats were tested by repeated presentation of cat urine for 1 h at different days in a defensive withdrawal apparatus. Rats exposed to urine for short periods showed significantly larger defensive behavioral and medial hypothalamic c-fos messenger RNA (mRNA) responses than other groups. These defensive responses habituated shortly after the presentation of cat urine. Serum levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosterone increased significantly when animals were repeatedly exposed to cat urine. However, the hormonal responses took longer to habituate than the behavioral and molecular responses did. We conclude that the behavioral and c-fos mRNA responses are “primed” for habituation to repeated exposures to cat urine, while the hormonal responses show “resistance.” The results support our hypothesis that the strongest anti-predator responses at three levels would occur during short-term exposure to cat urine and that these responses would subsequently disappear on prolonged exposure. This study assists understanding the way in which the different levels of defensive responses are integrated and react during chronic stress.
Naturwissenschaften – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 8, 2017
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