S university of agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine timisoara faculty of animal science and biotechnology



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BANAT'S UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES AND VETERINARY MEDICINE TIMISOARA
FACULTY OF ANIMAL SCIENCE AND BIOTECHNOLOGY


Biol. Ioan BĂNĂŢEAN-DUNEA

PHD THESIS
Research on the main behavioral manifestations to intensively farmed coypu (Myocastor coypus Molina)

Scientific coordinator:

University Professor, Engineer, Ph.D Marian BURA

Timişoara

- 2009 -

Abstract

Research on the main behavioral manifestations to intensively farmed coypu (Myocastor coypus Molina)

Key words: animal behaviour, coypu; Myocastor coypus Molina, the variety Golden Standard (brown, Brunellis), intensively farmed coypu, feeding behaviour, dipsic behaviour (drinking), hygienic behaviour (care), resting behaviour.

Introduction
According to LORENZ (1973), „Ethology may be defined as a science branch that came into being when all approaches and implicit and compulsory methods from Charles DARWIN so far, in the case of all the other biologic disciplines, have been applied in the research of animal and human behaviour, too”.

The knowledge of the behaviour of one species with interest in animal sciences represents a compulsory necessity in the elaboration and improvement of the breeding and exploiting technology of this species.

The studies on coypu behaviour are applied in the development of knowledge regarding ethology, in the coypu-breeding technology, animal welfare and, at the moment, they present great importance for animal protection.

Why the study of the intensively farmed coypu (Myocastor coypus Molina)? Coypu breeding in captivity started at the end of the 19th century, in South America, but the first studies published that were focused only on the night behavioural manifestations of the nutria bred under intensive system appeared in the 20th century [GOSLING, 1979; CHOLEWA, 1989; KALETA, 1990; TOČKA, 1996]. In Romania, the first researches on the nutritional, hygienic and resting behaviour of the nutria bred under intensive system were carried out by BURA, REBREANU, RĂDULESCU and TOSCA in 1985. As an answer to the question mentioned above, we mention that the research theme of this work helps enlarge the knowledge related to the main behavioural manifestations of the intensively farmed coypu. Moreover, the researches proved that nutria is a species that has not been fully known yet.

The PhD thesis entitled „Research on the main behavioral manifestations to intensively farmed coypu (Myocastor coypus Molina)”, elaborated by the PhD student biol. Ioan BĂNĂŢEAN-DUNEA, under the coordination of Mr. Prof. Marian BURA, PhD, is divided in two parts, structured into 9 chapters, and it also includes general conclusions and recommendations, the annex with original pictures and the bibliography. The thesis comprises 240 pages; the first part (Bibliographic study – represents 29.58% of the work) covers 71 pages, and the second part (Own researches – represents 70.41% of the work) totalizes 169 pages.

Part I BIBLIOGRAPHIC STUDY includes three chapters, structured as follows:
Chapter I – ETHOLOGY AS SCIENCE AND RESEARCH FIELD approaches in its description the importance of ethology, its object of study, the classification of behaviour types, the methodology of the ethologic research, external and internal causality of behaviour, the instinct, analysers’ physiology and their significance for behaviour, learning and memory.
Chapter II – BEHAVIOR TYPES includes the description of the main behavioural manifestations approached by animals.
Chapter III – BIOLOGICAL AND MORPHOLOGICAL PARTICULARITY OF COYPU deals with the systematic classification of nutria, with its external morphology and the internal organization of this animal.

Part II, OWN RESEARCHES, comprises six chapters, the general conclusions and the bibliography.
Chapter IV – THE AIM OF THE THESIS AND RESEARCH ORGANIZATION presents the objective of this work, material and methods of work, the scheme of experimental organization, methods of determination and result processing.

The main objective of this work was to make evident the frequency and duration of certain behavioural manifestations of the intensively farmed coypu, according to season (warm and cold). The behaviours studied are: feeding behaviour, the dipsic behaviour, the hygienic behaviour, the resting behaviour, the social behaviour and the stereotypical behaviour.

These research may contribute to the contrivance of some adequate coypu-breeding systems, reducing in this way the contradiction between the nature and the modern exploiting technology.

The experiments were performed at the Experimental Didactic Station, Farm 9 „Green Forest”, in the rabbit and coypu -breeding sector, within Banat’s University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Timişoara.

The biological material studied was consisted of healthy adult coypu (Myocastor coypus Molina), belonging to the variety Golden Standard (brown, Brunellis), with a similar body mass.

The recording of the experimental data obtained was performed with a video camera (Sony - CCD-TRV98E Hi8- VHSPAL), located in the shelter where the experiments were carried out.

In order to attain our objectives, each coypu was individually supervised (video) 24 hours a day. We made an exception in the case of the social behaviour, when we supervised (video) a number of 6 coypu at the same time, for 72 hours. The individual supervision was possible because coypu (males and females) were individually introduced in 16 cages (length 1.5 m, width 1.2 m, height 0.95 m).

Due to the fact that the climatic factors have a major implication in the behavioural manifestations, we supervised the microclimate conditions as well. So, during our experiments, we determined, with adequate equipment, the following physical parameters in the shelter:



  • air temperature;

  • water temperature in the water basin;

  • relative air humidity;

  • air course speed;

  • luminosity.

Because the microclimate conditions in the shelter are not dramatically influenced by the external climate factors, we divided a calendar year into two seasons: the cold season (November, December, January, February and March), respectively the warm season (May, June, July, August and September). April and October are intermediary months for the two seasons.

In this work aiming at the study of some behavioural manifestations in the coypu (Myocastor coypus Molina) bred under intensive system, we carried out a number of 6 experiments.



The first experiment aiming at the study of the social behaviour took place for 72 hours and it was performed on 6 coypu (5 females and 1 male), of the same age, belonging to the variety Golden Standard.

Experiment 2 was performed on 16 adult coypu (8 females and 8 males), of the same age, belonging to the variety Golden Standard. The duration of this experiment was 18 days (10.11.–27.11.2003).

The biological material used in the experiment 2 was used in the experiments 3, 4 and 5, too, where we approached the same method of work (2-day practising with the forage offered and the supervision of the biological material, individually, 24 hours a day, with the help of a video camera). The forage used in this experiment was represented by maize grains and alfalfa hay.



Experiment 3 lasted for 18 days in the period 28.11.-15.12.2003, and the forage offered during this period was represented by maize grains and fodder beet.

In experiment 4 we offered barley and fodder beet, for a period of 18 days (14.-31.01.2004), and in experiment 5, also for a period of 18 days (01.-18.02.2008), we offered the animals barley and carrots.



Experiment 6 was performed with the same biological material (8 females and 8 males) like in the experiments from the cold season (the experiments 2, 3, 4 and 5), and this was offered maize cobs and fresh alfalfa. The work method applied is identical with the work method approached in the experiments 2, 3, 4 and 5, and the period of supervision was 19.07-05.08.2004 (18 days).

By analyzing the time allocated for the video recording/experiment, we observed that the experiments 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 totalized a number of 1,920 hours of video recording (384 hours/experiment), and the experiment 1 totalized a number of 72 hours of video recording (total= 1,992 hours of video recording).



Chapter V- FEEDING BEHAVIOUR deals with the main manifestations of the feeding behaviour of the adult coypu bred under intensive system.

The indices supervised were:



  • the duration of the feeding behaviour according to season, forage mixture, sex and time slot;

  • the duration of one feeding according to season, forage mixture, sex and time slot;

  • number of feedings according to season, forage mixture, sex and time slot;

  • speed of forage consumption according to forage mixture and sex;

  • duration of a coprophagic sequence;

  • number of coprophagic sequences.


Cold season

In the case of coypu are fed with maize grains and alfalfa hay, we obtained a mean feeding behaviour value of 6,624.88±889.69 seconds for coypu males, and in females the mean duration of the nutritional behaviour was 5,656.25±372.13 seconds. The mean duration of one sequence of the nutritional behaviour in coypu males was 127.91±7.96 seconds in the case of the consumption of maize grains, and the mean value obtained was 122.11±20.53 seconds in the case of the consumption of alfalfa hay. In females, the mean duration of one sequence of the feeding behviour was 134.27±7.78 seconds in the case of the consumtpion of maize grains, and in the case of the consumption of alfalfa hay the mean value was 96.32±10.12 seconds. In males, the mean total number of feeding sequences was 60.50±11.86 sequences, and in females the mean total number of feeding sequences was 46.88±3.09.

In the case of coypu feeding on maize grains and fodder beet, we obtained a mean nutritional behaviour value of 4,921.63±472.64 seconds in males, and in females the mean duration of the nutritional behaviour was 5,450.00±297.94 seconds. The mean duration of one sequence of the nutritional behaviour in male coypu was 99.03±6.11 seconds in the case of the maize grains consumption, and in the case of fodder beet, the mean value was 93.02±6.95 seconds. In females, the mean duration of one sequence of the nutritional behaviour was 103.12±6.50 seconds in the case of maize grains consumption, and in the case of fodder beet, the mean value was 94.89±5.77 seconds. In males, the mean total number of nutritional sequences was 51.63±5.54, and in females the mean total number of nutritional sequences was 56.38±2.48.

In the case of feeding on barley and fodder beet, we obtained a mean value of the nutritional behaviour of 5,035.00±539.61 seconds in male coypu, and in females the mean duration of the nutritional behaviour was 4,901.63±496.61 seconds. The mean duration of one sequence of the nutritional behaviour in male coypu was 126.34±10.12 seconds in the case of barley consumption, and in the case of fodder beet, the mean value obtained was 104.70±9.66 seconds. In females, the mean duration of one sequence of the feeding behaviour was 125.44±10.59 seconds in the case of barley consumption, and in the case of fodder beet, the mean value calculated was 114.41±11.25 seconds. In males, the mean total number of nutritional sequences was 43.13±3.78, and in females the mean total number of nutritional sequences was 42.50±3.74 sequences.

In case of nutria feeding on barley and carrots, we obtained a mean value of the nutritional behaviour of 4,507.88±38.99 seconds in male coypu, and in females the mean duration of the nutritional behaviour was 4,576.63±26.01 seconds. The mean duration of one sequence of the nutritional behaviour in male coypu was 119.41±10.60 seconds in the case of barley consumption, and, in the case of carrot consumption, the mean value obtained was 84.15±6.87 seconds. In females, the mean duration of one sequence of the nutritional behaviour was 110.01±6.77 seconds in the case of barley consumption, and in the case of carrot consumption, the mean value calculated was 91.05±7.08 seconds. In males, the mean total number of nutritional sequences was 47.75±2.83 sequences, and in females the mean total number of nutritional sequences was 45.63±2.78.

By totalizing all raw values representing the duration of the feeding behaviour in the cold season, we obtained the mean duration of the nutritional value in the cold season, respectively 5,209.23±177.34 seconds.

The duration of the feeding behaviour during the cold season for intensively farmed coypu represents 6.029% of the behavioural manifestations.

Warm season

In the case of coypu feeding on maize cobs and fresh alfalfa, we obtained a mean value of the nutritional value of 13,531.25±149.71 seconds in male coypu, and in females the mean duration of the nutritional behaviour was 11,777.88±380.28 seconds. In male coypu, the mean duration of the feeding behaviour in the case of feeding on maize and fresh alfalfa represents 15.661% of 24 hours, and in females the mean duration of the nutritional behaviour represents 13.631% of 24 hours. The mean duration of one sequence of the feeding behaviour in coypu males was 610.50±146.55 seconds in the case of maize consumption, and in the case of alfalfa, the mean value obtained was 264.63±60.81 seconds. In females, the mean duration of one sequence of the feeding behaviour was 1,032.29±326.64 seconds in the case of maize consumption, and in the case of fresh alfalfa, the mean value calculated was 505.00±138.37 seconds.


Speed of feed consumption

The mean total speed of feeding on maize grains from the forage mixture including maize grains – alfalfa hay was 37.71±1.43 mg/second maize grains, and the mean total speed of feeding on alfalfa hay from the same mixture was 15.53±0.29 mg/second alfalfa hay.

The mean total speed of feeding on maize grains from the forage mixture maize grains –fodder beet was 46.38±1.90 mg/second maize grains, and the mean total speed of feeding on fodder beet from the same mixture was 132.60±15.72 mg/second fodder beet.

The mean total speed of feeding on barley from the forage mixture barley – fodder beet was 44.06±2.40 mg/second in the case of barley, and the mean total speed of fodder beet consumption, from the same mixture, was 115.04±18.17 mg fodder beet/second.

The mean total speed of barley consumption, from the forage mixture barley – carrots, was 36.48±0.22 mg barley/second, and the mean total speed of carrot consumption, from the same mixture, was 163.14±2.50 mg carrot/second.
Coprophagy in coypu

The mean value of one coprophagic sequence in the intensively farmed coypu was 87 seconds, and the mean of the coprophagic sequences in 24 hours, in the intensively farmed coypu, was 3.5 coprophagic sequences.



Chapter VI – DIPSIC BEHAVIOUR (DRINKING)

The indices supervised were:



  • duration of the dipsic behaviour (water drinking) according to season and sex;

  • duration of one drinking sequence according to season and sex;

  • number of drinking sequences according to season and sex.


Cold season

The mean total duration of the dipsic behaviour in the cold season for intensively farmed coypu was 299.25±21.75 seconds. The dipsic behaviour for intensively farmed coypurepresents 0.34% of 24 hours. The mean duration of the drinking sequences in the cold season was 26.89±2.82 seconds. The mean number of the drinking sequences for intensively farmed coypu was 5.81±1.16.


Warm season

The mean total duration of the dipsic behaviour in the warm season, for intensively farmed coypu, was 327.50±31.64 seconds. The dipsic behaviour in the coypu bred under intensive system represents 0.379% of 24 hours. The mean duration of one drinking sequence in the warm season was 29.78±2.92 seconds. The mean number of the drinking sequences in the coypu bred under intensive system was 4.88±0.92.

By analyzing the significance of differences between the warm season and the cold season, regarding the duration of the dipsic behaviour in 24 hours, we may observe that the differences between the warm season and the cold season are insignificant (p>0.05).

Also, the significance of the difference between the warm season and the cold season, regarding the duration of one drinking sequence, was insignificant (p>0.05) for intensively farmed coypu.


Chapter VII – HYGIENIC BEHAVIOUR (CARE BEHAVIOR)

The indices supervised were:



  • duration of the hygienic behaviour (of attendance) according to season and sex;

  • duration of one attendance sequence according to season, sex and time slot;

  • number of attendance sequences according to season, sex and time slot.


Cold season

The mean duration of the hygienic behaviour in the cold season, for intensively farmed coypu, was 2,759.44±92.03 seconds. In terms of percentage, the duration of the hygienic behaviour, in the coypu bred under intensive system, represents 3.193% of the behavioural features. The mean duration of one attendance sequence in the coypu bred under intensive system was 80.72±5.65 seconds. The mean number of attendance sequences coypu was 37.38±1.57 in 24 hours.


Warm season

The mean duration of the hygienic behaviour in the warm season, in the coypu bred under intensive system, was 3,517.06±124.57 seconds. In terms of percentage, the duration of the hygienic behaviour in the warm season, in the coypu bred under intensive system, represents 4.070% of the behavioural features. The mean duration of one care sequence in the warm season, in the coypu bred under intensive system, was 66.88±10.18 seconds. The mean number of the attendance sequences in the warm season, in coypu, was 58.56±3.61 in 24 hours.

The significance of the difference between the cold season and the warm season, regarding the duration of the hygienic behaviour, was very significant (p<0.001).

The significance of the difference between the cold season and the warm season, regarding the duration of one care sequence, was insignificant (p>0.05).



Chapter VIII – RESTING BEHAVIOUR

The indices supervised were:



  • duration of the resting behaviour according to season, sex and time slot;

  • duration of one resting sequence according to season, sex and location;

  • number of resting sequences according to season and sex.


Cold season

The mean duration of the resting behaviour in the cold season, for intensively farmed coypu, was 73,183.69±326.19 seconds. In terms of percentage, the resting behaviour in coypu represents 84.70% of the behavioural manifestations during the cold season. The mean duration of one resting sequence in the cold season, in the coypu bred under intensive system, was 884.15±206.30 seconds. The mean number of the resting sequences in 24 hours, in the coypu bred under intensive system, was 82.43±2.30.


Warm season

The mean duration of the resting behaviour in the warm season, for intensively farmed coypu, was 64,433±678.40 seconds. In percentages, the resting behaviour in coypu represents 74.575% of the behavioural manifestations in the warm season. The mean duration of one resting sequence in the warm season, in the coypu bred under intensive system, was 1,154.01±581.41 seconds. The mean number of the resting sequences in 24 hours, in the coypu bred under intensive system, was 54±4.76 sequences. The analysis of the significance of differences between the cold season and the warm season, regarding the duration of the resting behaviour, leads to the conclusion that the differences were very significant (p<0.001).

The significance of the difference between the cold season and the warm season regarding the duration of one resting sequence shows that the differences were very significant (p<0.001).

Chapter IX – OTHER TYPES OF BEHAVIOUR approaches the stereotypical and the social behaviour of coypu.

The indices supervised were:



  • duration of the stereotypical behaviour according to sex;

  • duration of one stereotypical sequence according to sex and to the stereotype approached by coypu;

  • number of stereotypical sequences according to sex and time slot;

  • duration of aggression sequences in coypu;

  • hierarchy manifestation in group.

The mean duration of one attack (fight) sequence between male and females, in order to establish the „high-ranking” individual, was 11.31±4.09 seconds.

The total time allocated to the attack (fight) behaviour between male and females, in order to establish the „high-ranking” individual during our experiment, was 486.49 seconds.

The analysis of the mean duration of one attack (fight) sequence between females, in order to establish the „high-ranking” individual, led to the conclusion that the mean value of one attack (fight) sequence between females was smaller (3.70±0.59 seconds) than the mean duration of one attack (fight) sequence between male and females.

The total time allocated to the attack (fight) behaviour between females, in order to establish the „high-ranking” individual during our experiment (72 hours), was 63 seconds.

The mean duration of one saving sequence successive to the aggression between male and one female was 5.49±1.36 seconds, and the mean duration of one saving sequence successive to the aggression between two females was 2.20±0.27 seconds.

The hierarchy established within the group was almost linear. The coypu male installed in the front of the group („high-ranking” individual), and in the case of females, we observed the installation of a linear hierarchy between the first three coypus females; the females at the bottom of the hierarchy (female 4 and female 5) are dominated by all members of the group. Periodically, coypu verifies their authority in the group.



GENERAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS


  • The feeding behaviour duration is influenced by the palatability of the forage consumed.

  • Good palatability reduces the feeding behaviour duration.

  • The duration of the feeding behaviour in the cold season in coypu males represents 1.102% of the behavioural manifestations, and in coypu females the duration of the feeding behaviour represents 5.956% of the behavioural manifestations.

  • The duration of the feeding behaviour in the warm season, in coypu males, represents 15.661% of the behavioural manifestations, and in coypu females the duration of the feeding behaviour represents 13.631% of the behavioural manifestations.

  • The most intense manifestations of the feeding behaviour in the cold season took place in the time slots 0800-1400 and 1400-2000.

  • In the warm season, the most intense manifestations of the feeding behaviour took place in the time slot 0800-1400.

  • In percentages, the duration of the hygienic behaviour in the cold season, for intensively farmed coypu, represented 3.193% of the behavioural manifestations.

  • In percentages, the duration of the hygienic behaviour in the warm season, in the coypu bred under intensive system, represented 4.070% of the behavioural features.

  • In percentages, in the cold season, the resting behaviour in coypu represents 84.70% of the behavioural manifestations during the cold season.

  • In percentages, the resting behaviour in coypu, in the warm season, represents 74.575% of the behavioural manifestations during the warm season.

  • The apparition of the stereotypical behaviour for intensively farmed coypu is due to the fact that coypu is a semi-tame animal.

  • The mean duration of the stereotypical behaviour in the coypu bred under intensive system was 917.13±26.60 seconds.

  • The hierarchy established within the group studied was almost linear.

  • The coypu male installed in the front of the group („high-ranking” individual).

  • The duration of the main behavioural manifestations in the adult coypu bred under intensive system, reposing, was influenced by the duration of the feeding behaviour.

  • The data obtained from the behavioural studies in this work may be used in the development of modern coypu breeding technologies, improving the reproductive results of these animals.

  • The apparition of the stereotypical behaviour in the coypu bred under intensive system obliges the coypu breeders to approach other nutria breeding and exploitation systems, in order to avoid animal welfare degradation.







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