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Am J Primatol. 2017 Jan;79(1):1-10. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22504. Epub 2015 Nov 18.

The correlation between alopecia and temperament in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) at four primate facilities.

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Oregon National Primate Research Center, Beaverton, Oregon.
Southwest National Primate Research Center, San Antonio, Texas.
Washington National Primate Research Center, Seattle, Washington.
University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts.


Alopecia is a ubiquitous, multifaceted problem at facilities caring for captive rhesus macaques. There is a wide range of potential etiologies for the hair loss, including compromised immune function, dermatological pathologies, and environmental factors. However, few studies have examined whether various temperamental traits affect vulnerability to develop alopecia. We examined the correlation between alopecia and temperament in 101 (51M) indoor-housed rhesus macaques at four national primate centers. We utilized a cage side version of the Human Intruder test (HIT) to assess response to four conditions: no human present (Alone), human intruder standing next to the cage without making eye contact (Profile), intruder making direct eye contact (Stare) and intruder with back turned (Back). Behavior from all videos was quantified at one facility. We used generalized linear modeling to examine the relationship between behavior on the HIT and alopecia, controlling for facility, age, and sex. There was a significant negative correlation between alopecia and various behaviors associated with an inhibited or anxious temperament, including self-directed behavior (β = -0.15, P < 0.001) and freeze in the Profile period (β = -0.0092, P < 0.001), and defensive behaviors (β = -0.0094, P < 0.001) and time spent in the back of the cage in the Stare period (β = -0.0023, P = 0.015). Individuals with an inhibited or anxious temperament had less alopecia than others. Further, there were facility differences with respect to several variables on the HIT, including defensive behavior in Stare and freeze in Profile. These results suggest that temperament can influence the development of alopecia in rhesus macaques. Our results also highlight the degree to which facility differences can affect outcomes on standardized behavioral tests. Am. J. Primatol. 79:e22504, 2017.


anxiety; hair loss; husbandry practices; behavioral inhibition

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