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The Use of Passerine Bird Species in Laboratory Research: Implications of Basic Biology for Husbandry and Welfare

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD, Dr Gesa Feenders


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Passerine birds are important models in fundamental biological research, with as many as 300,000 individuals used in laboratory experiments worldwide annually. However, because the use of passerines is rare compared with that of more conventional laboratory animals, there is often a lack of information about the basic biology and husbandry requirements of these species. We aim to address this deficit by providing an overview of the most salient aspects of passerine biology and their implications for laboratory husbandry and welfare. We start by describing the characteristics that make these birds useful and interesting research subjects. Specifically, we highlight features (e.g., birdsong) of passerine biology that differentiate these birds from more common laboratory animals. Next, we consider the implications of passerine biology for husbandry in the laboratory. Many of the aspects of passerine biology that make these species valuable to scientists are also likely to be affected by environmental variables; a good knowledge of these variables is necessary in order to choose appropriate laboratory conditions for passerines. We outline how the developmental history of the birds and choices of caging, feeding, and environmental regimes might influence their physiology and behavior and thus affect both the welfare of the birds and the quality of the resulting data. We stress the importance of a sound understanding of the biology of any species to ensure good welfare and good science.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bateson M, Feenders G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: ILAR Journal

Year: 2010

Volume: 51

Issue: 4

Pages: 394-408

Print publication date: 01/01/2010

ISSN (print): 1084-2020

ISSN (electronic): 1930-6180

Publisher: Institute for Laboratory Animal Research


PubMed id: 21131716


Funder referenceFunder name
BB/05623/1UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council