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Genetic Analysis of Tail Rattling in the Mouse


TAIL rattling is a prominent feature of aggressive encounters between mice and is thought to be a threat behaviour, although conclusive evidence of this is lacking1. A factor analysis of aggressive behaviours elicited in a single subject using foot-shock in conjunction with a bottle brush target indicated that tail rattling had a high loading on the “aggressive factor” and negligible loading on the other factors2. On the other hand, a rather comprehensive study of fourteen inbred strains by Southwick and Clark3 revealed no consistent interstrain relationship between fighting and tail rattling. These displays are usually regarded by ethologists as having complex, rather than unitary, motivational determinants4. If this is correct, a linear relationship with a single variable, such as attack behaviour, would be unlikely to prove robust. An additional complication arises when genetic differences between subjects are important. The degree of manifestation or expressivity of the display, in relation to the motivational states which underlie it, may be expected to exhibit genetic variation.

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JOHN, R. Genetic Analysis of Tail Rattling in the Mouse. Nature 241, 549–551 (1973).

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