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Social behaviour and neophobia in the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.)

Sunnucks, Paul James; (1995) Social behaviour and neophobia in the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.). Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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A population of wild rabbits in Hampshire was studied in 1986-89. Social processes were investigated: temporal and spatiotemporal association with respect to social group membership and sex, vigilance/feeding time-budgets, interactive behaviours, and protem genetic data. Burrows were significantly clustered and locations of rabbits were related to positions of these. Range shifts, distribution and behaviour of males showed evidence of competition over females. Differences were found in association, depending on sex and group membership. Data indicated that same-group mixed-sex pairs associated more than other classes. Same- group females also associated, and these chased each other significantly less than nonmembers. Patterns of vigilance varied with factors including individual sex and social status, and sex and social group of surrounding rabbits. For males, the most significant factor was distance to the nearest male; patterns of vigilance were also consistent with mate-guarding. Female vigilance was more context-specific, with differences between social ranks. There was little evidence that rabbits gained vigilance benefit from presence of other rabbits overall, but there were several social contexts where rabbits significantly lost or gained feeding efficiency. Female natal recruitment u as significantly higher than that of males, and relatedness among same-group females tended to be greater. Same-group females associated significantly more with, and were less vigilant and aggressive towards, more-related females. Genetic data indicated that a maximum of 60% of matings were by a pair within the same group. Certain males probably mated within- and between-group. Some males had less detected reproductive success than behaviour might have predicted. Rabbits had significant neophobic reactions to flavours (in captivity) and objects (in the wild). These responses declined rapidly with exposure. In novel food choice experiments there was an unusual interaction between novelty and location.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Social behaviour and neophobia in the European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Biological sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106685
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