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J Comp Psychol. 1987 Dec;101(4):390-4.

Effects of the nonagouti pelage-color allele on the behavior of captive wild Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus).

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Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis 95616.


The objective of the present study was to determine the extent to which the nonagouti pelage-color allele influences selected behaviors (including docility) of the wild Norway rat. Agouti and nonagouti (black) littermates were compared in tests for handling, open-field behavior, platform jumping, and response to a novel food item, all of which clearly differentiate wild and domestic rats. Nonagouti rats were significantly easier to approach, capture, and handle than their agouti sibs. However, differences between agouti and nonagouti rats for the other variables studied were not significant. Although the presence of the nonagouti allele cannot fully account for the behavioral differences between wild and domestic Norway rats, it may have facilitated the domestication of this species by improving ease of handling.

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