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Physiol Behav. 2013 Feb 17;110-111:87-95. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.12.018. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Impact of nesting material on mouse body temperature and physiology.

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Animal Behavior and Well-Being Group, Department of Animal Science, Purdue University, 915 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


In laboratories, mice are housed at 20-24 °C, which is below their lower critical temperature (≈30 °C). Thus, mice are potentially cold stressed, which can alter metabolism, immune function, and reproduction. These physiological changes reflect impaired wellbeing, and affect scientific outcomes. We hypothesized that nesting material would allow mice to alleviate cold stress by controlling their thermal microenvironment, thus insulating them, reducing heat loss and thermogenic processes. Naïve C57BL/6, CD-1, and BALB/c mice (24 male and 24 female/strain in groups of 3) were housed in standard cages at 20 °C either with or without 8 g nesting material for 4 weeks. Core body temperature was followed using intraperitoneal radio telemetry. The thermal properties of the nests were assessed using a thermal imaging camera, and related to nest quality. Higher scoring nests were negatively correlated with the mean radiated temperature and were thus more insulating. No effects of nesting material on body temperature were found. CD-1 mice with nesting material had higher end body weights than controls. No effect was seen in the other two strains. Mice with the telemetry implant had larger spleens than controls, possibly indicating an immune response to the implant or low level infection from the surgery. BALB/c mice express less mRNA for the UCP1 protein than mice without nesting material. This indicates that BALB/c's with nesting material do not utilize their brown fat to create heat as readily as controls. Nests can alleviate thermal discomfort by decreasing the amount of radiated heat and reduce the need for non-shivering thermogenesis. However, different strains appear to use different behavioral (through different primary modes of behavioral thermoregulation) and physiological strategies (utilizing thermogenesis to different degrees) to maintain a constant body temperature under cool standard laboratory ambient temperatures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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