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Welfare of zebra finches used in research


Abstract

Over the past 50 years, songbirds have become a valuable model organism for scientists studying vocal communication from its behavioral, hormonal, neuronal, and genetic perspectives. Many advances in our understanding of vocal learning result from research using the zebra finch, a close-ended vocal learner. We review some of the manipulations used in zebra finch research, such as isolate housing, transient/irreversible impairment of hearing/vocal organs, implantation of small devices for chronic electrophysiology, head fixation for imaging, aversive song conditioning using sound playback, and mounting of miniature backpacks for behavioral monitoring. We highlight the use of these manipulations in scientific research, and estimate their impact on animal welfare, based on the literature and on data from our past and ongoing work. The assessment of harm-benefits tradeoffs is a legal prerequisite for animal research in Switzerland. We conclude that a diverse set of known stressors reliably lead to suppressed singing rate, and that by contraposition, increased singing rate may be a useful indicator of welfare. We hope that our study can contribute to answering some of the most burning questions about zebra finch welfare in research on vocal behaviors.

Abstract

Over the past 50 years, songbirds have become a valuable model organism for scientists studying vocal communication from its behavioral, hormonal, neuronal, and genetic perspectives. Many advances in our understanding of vocal learning result from research using the zebra finch, a close-ended vocal learner. We review some of the manipulations used in zebra finch research, such as isolate housing, transient/irreversible impairment of hearing/vocal organs, implantation of small devices for chronic electrophysiology, head fixation for imaging, aversive song conditioning using sound playback, and mounting of miniature backpacks for behavioral monitoring. We highlight the use of these manipulations in scientific research, and estimate their impact on animal welfare, based on the literature and on data from our past and ongoing work. The assessment of harm-benefits tradeoffs is a legal prerequisite for animal research in Switzerland. We conclude that a diverse set of known stressors reliably lead to suppressed singing rate, and that by contraposition, increased singing rate may be a useful indicator of welfare. We hope that our study can contribute to answering some of the most burning questions about zebra finch welfare in research on vocal behaviors.

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Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Neuroinformatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:16 May 2019 09:50
Last Modified:28 Jul 2020 14:10
Series Name:BioRxiv
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1101/154567

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