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Physiol Behav. 1994 Jan;55(1):125-8.

Snake odor alters behavior, but not pain sensitivity in mice.

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Section of Behavioral Pathophysiology, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome, Italy.


It is known that predator cues (both mammalian odor or avian vocalization) elicit marked analgesia in rodents. The present experiment used olfactory cues produced by an opportunistic rodent predator snake species (100 cc of sawdust scented by Elaphe quatuorlineata). Upon exposure to snake odor (for 30 s, 20 min, or 40 min), adult mice of both the CD-1 and DBA2 strains were assessed for tail-flick or hot-plate analgesia at different times after exposure (from 0 to 40 or 45 min, respectively). In both strains, snake odor exposure induced significant alteration in the frequencies of sniffing, self-grooming, and digging, while it inhibited habituation of locomotor activity in DBA/2 mice. No analgesia emerged with both tests as a consequence of exposure to snake odor. Results suggest that although endogenous analgesia has been demonstrated by other authors to be elicited in response to cues emanating from common and widely distributed mouse predators (such as carnivores or owls), predators such as reptiles, which under natural conditions exert a limited predatory pressure on the house mouse gene pool, may only induce fear-associated behavioral responses but cannot provide ethologically relevant stimuli triggering mouse analgesia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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