Bentson, K. L., Crockett, C. M., Wahl, K. L. et al. 2010. Floating limb behaviors and self-biting are associated in laboratory monkeys. American Journal of Primatology 72(8), 725-733.
Early descriptions of floating limb behaviors in monkeys were associated with isolation rearing, a practice that ended more than two decades ago. The present authors named various forms of behaviors in which a leg is elevated for no apparent reason: “Floating Limb Suite” (FLS). Floating limb behaviors, identified in laboratory monkeys at the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC), consist of two subcategories distinguished by whether monkeys seem to react to the elevated leg or ignore it. Given the past association of isolation rearing with both self-biting (SB) and floating limb, the investigators predicted that SB and FLS would be associated in monkeys not reared in isolation. The investigators tracked, over a period of 3 years, the presence of FLS and SB in macaques (Macaca nemestrina, M. fascicularis, M. mulatta) and Papio cynocephalus at WaNPRC. SB and both subcategories of FLS occurred in mother-reared and surrogate-peer-nursery-reared monkeys. We analyzed presence of FLS, the two subcategories of FLS, and SB in 1,117 macaques monitored for up to 3 years, and 781 macaques observed for 8 min of structured data collection. The Papio sample size was insufficient for statistical analysis. Both sampling methodologies found FLS and FLS subcategories to be associated with SB. Nearly half the monkeys only engaging in seemingly harmless nonreactive forms of FLS also performed the potentially injurious behavior of self-biting. The positive association between FLS and SB suggests that monkeys exhibiting one of these behaviors are at a heightened risk for developing the other. One impediment to studying floating limb behaviors is lack of consensus on definitions. This study defined seven forms of apparently functionless elevated limb behaviors. Continued research on factors associated with floating limb behaviors across demographic groups and settings may provide insights into the etiology and treatment of self-biting