Stereotypy (non-human)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For cultural depictions of animals, see Stereotypes of animals.
An elephant exhibiting stereotyped trunk swinging and rocking behaviour

In animal behavior, stereotypy, stereotypical or stereotyped behavior has several meanings, leading to ambiguity in the scientific literature.[1] A stereotypy is a term for a group of phenotypic behaviours that are repetitive, morphologically identical and which possess no obvious goal or function.[2] These behaviours have been defined as ‘abnormal’ as they exhibit themselves solely to animals subjected to barren environments, scheduled or restricted feedings, social deprivation and other cases of frustration,[3] but do not arise in ‘normal’ animals in their natural environments.[4] These behaviors may be maladaptive, involving self-injury or reduced reproductive success, and in laboratory animals can confound behavioral research.[5]

Stereotyped behavior can also refer to normal behaviors that show low variation. For example, mammalian chewing cycles or fish capturing prey using suction feeding. Highly stereotyped movements may be due to mechanical constraint (such as the skull of a viper or fish, in which bones are mechanically linked), tight neural control (as in mammalian chewing), or both. The degree of stereotyping may vary markedly between closely related species engaging in the same behavior.[1]


The display of stereotypies is usually increased in an individual over time, this is due to the changing motivation of the stereotypy. The establishment of the stereotype may be due to a number of factors within a captive environment, however the continuance of the behaviour can be explained by its impact on the basal ganglia[6] and the establishment of a habit in its expression. The interruption or cease of a habit is much more tedious and difficult than that of the initial behaviour.[2] Secondly, as stereotypes develop, they become more readily elicited, so much so that they are no longer just expressed during the original circumstances and may be expressed in the absence of any apparent stress or conflict. The development of the stereotypy into a habit and the difficulty of interrupting said habit explain why it is expected that the frequency of stereotypies increases with age.[2]

It is assumed that the onset of the development of stereotypies is due to poor coping with the animal's environment, and is considered one of the most important indicators of long-term animal welfare problems, a prolonged display of stereotypies suggests that the welfare of the animal is in a peril state.[4] The welfare of the mink is considered an important aspect from a management stand point as it has repercussions on the production of the animal. Inadequate welfare has been linked to poor reproductively, poor growth rate.[5]


Video of a mouse showing distinct amphetamine-induced stereotypy reminiscent of nail biting[7]

Many stereotypies can be induced by confinement; for example, cats pace in zoo cages.[8] Pregnant sows whose feed is restricted bite at their stalls' bars and chew without anything in their mouths.[9] In laboratory rats and mice, grooming is the most common activity other than sleep, and grooming stereotypies have been used to investigate several animal models of anxiety and depression.[10]

Examples of stereotypical behaviors include pacing, rocking, swimming in circles, excessive sleeping, self-mutilation (including feather picking and excessive grooming), and mouthing cage bars.

Stereotypies are seen in many species, including primates, birds, and carnivores. Up to 54% of elephants in zoos display stereotypical behaviors.[11][12] Stereotypic behaviour is also common in captive giraffes; although they perform a wide range of stereotypies, they predominantly lick inanimate objects, which may be related to limitations on natural foraging and feeding behavior.[13][14] Stereotypies are well known in stabled horses, usually developing as a result of being confined, particularly with insufficient exercise. They are colloquially called stable vices. They present a management issue, not only leading to facility damage from chewing, kicking, and repetitive motion, but also lead to health consequences for the animal if not addressed.[15]

Stereotypical behaviors are thought to be caused ultimately by artificial environments that do not allow animals to satisfy their normal behavioral needs. Rather than refer to the behavior as abnormal, it has been suggested that it be described as "behavior indicative of an abnormal environment."[16] Stereotypies are correlated with altered behavioral response selection in the basal ganglia.[5]

Stereotypical behavior in laboratory animals can confound behavioral research.[5] It is also seen as a sign of psychological distress in animals, and therefore is an animal welfare issue.


Stereotypical behavior can sometimes be reduced or eliminated by environmental enrichment, including larger and more stimulating enclosures, training, and introductions of stimuli (such as objects, sounds, or scents) to the animal's environment. The enrichment must be varied to remain effective for any length of time. Housing social animals such as primates with other members of their species is also helpful. But once the behavior is established, it is sometimes impossible to eliminate due to alterations in the brain.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c Mason, G. (1993). "Age and context affect the stereotypies of caged mink." (PDF). Behaviour. 127(2). 
  3. ^ Hansen, S. Jeppesen, L. (2006). "Temperament, stereotypies and anticipatory behaviour as measures of welfare in mink.". Applied Animal Science Behaviour. 99(1): 172–182. 
  4. ^ a b Jeppesen, L. Heller, K. Bidsoe, M. (2004). "Stereotypies in female farm mink may be genetically transmitted with higher fertility due to effects on body weight". Applied Animal Behaviour. 86(1): 137–143. 
  5. ^ a b c d Garner JP, Mason GJ. Evidence for a relationship between cage stereotypies and behavioural disinhibition in laboratory rodents. Behav Brain Res. 2002;136(1):83–92. doi:10.1016/S0166-4328(02)00111-0. PMID 12385793.
  6. ^ Garner, J. Mason, G. (2002). "Evidence for a relationship between cages stereotypies and behavioural disinhibition in laboratory rodents". Behavioural Brain Research. 136(1): 83–92. 
  7. ^ Keebaugh A, Mitchell H, Gaval-Cruz M, Freeman K, Edwards G, Weinshenker D and Thomas J (2011) "PRTFDC1 Is a Genetic Modifier of HPRT-Deficiency in the Mouse" PLOS ONE, 6 (7), e22381. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022381
  8. ^ Swaisgood RR, Sheperhdson DJ. Scientific approaches to enrichment and stereotypies in zoo animals: what's been done and where should we go next?. Zoo Biol. 2005;24(6):499–518. doi:10.1002/zoo.20066.
  9. ^ Lawrence AB, Terlouw EM. A review of behavioral factors involved in the development and continued performance of stereotypic behaviors in pigs. J Anim Sci. 1993;71(10):2815–25. PMID 8226385.
  10. ^ Kalueff AV, Wheaton M, Murphy DL. What's wrong with my mouse model? Advances and strategies in animal modeling of anxiety and depression. Behav Brain Res. 2007;179(1):1–18. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2007.01.023. PMID 17306892.
  11. ^ "Defra Final Report on Elephant Welfare" (PDF). Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Stern A. Elephant deaths at zoos reignite animal debate. 2005-02-28 [Retrieved 2006-05-30]. Reuters.
  13. ^ Bashaw, Meredith J; Tarou, Loraine R; Maki, Todd S; Maple, Terry L (2001). "A survey assessment of variables related to stereotypy in captive giraffe and okapi". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 73 (3): 235–247. doi:10.1016/s0168-1591(01)00137-x. Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  14. ^ Fernandez, L.T., Bashaw, M.J., Sartor, R.L., Bouwens, N.R. and Maki, T.S. (2008). "Tongue twisters: feeding enrichment to reduce oral stereotypy in giraffe". Zoo Biology. 27 (3): 200–212. 
  15. ^ Christie, Julie Christie, (2008). "Horse Behavior and Stable Vices" (PDF). University of Minnesota Extension. Regents of the University of Minnesota. 
  16. ^ a b Davis E, Down N, Garner J et al. Stereotypical behavior: a LAREF discussion [PDF]. Lab Primate Newsl. 2004 [Retrieved 2009-12-21];34(4):3–4.