Mieske, P., Diederich, K., Lewejohann, L. 2021. Roaming in a land of milk and honey: Life trajectories and metabolic rate of female inbred mice living in a semi naturalistic environment. Animals 11(10), 3002.

Despite tremendous efforts at standardization, the results of scientific studies can vary greatly, especially when considering animal research. It is important to emphasize that consistent different personality-like traits emerge and accumulate over time in laboratory mice despite genetic and environmental standardization. To understand to what extent variability can unfold over time, we conducted a long-term study using inbred mice living in an exceptionally complex environment comprising an area of 4.6 m2 spread over five levels. In this semi-naturalistic environment (SNE) the activity and spatial distribution of 20 female C57Bl/6J was recorded by radio-frequency identification (RFID). All individuals were monitored from an age of 11 months to 22 months and their individual pattern of spatial movement in time is described as roaming entropy. Overall, we detected an increase of diversification in roaming behavior over time with stabilizing activity patterns at the individual level. However, spontaneous behavior of the animals as well as physiological parameters did not correlate with cumulative roaming entropy. Moreover, the amount of variability did not exceed the literature data derived from mice living in restricted conventional laboratory conditions. We conclude that even taking quantum leaps towards improving animal welfare does not inevitably mean a setback in terms of data quality.

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