Co-Housing Rodents with Different Coat Colours as a Simple, Non-Invasive Means of Individual Identification: Validating Mixed-Strain Housing for C57BL/6 and DBA/2 Mice

Michael Walker, Carole Fureix, Rupert Palme, Georgia Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
294 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Standard practice typically requires the marking of laboratory mice so that they can be individually identified. However, many of the common methods compromise the welfare of the individuals being marked (as well as requiring time, effort, and/or resources on the part of researchers and technicians). Mixing strains of different colour within a cage would allow them to be readily visually identifiable, negating the need for more invasive marking techniques. Here we assess the impact that mixed strain housing has on the phenotypes of female C57BL/6 (black) and DBA/2 (brown) mice, and on the variability in the data obtained from them. Mice were housed in either mixed strain or single strain pairs for 19 weeks, and their phenotypes then assessed using 23 different behavioural, morphological, haematological and physiological measures widely used in research and/or important for assessing mouse welfare. No negative effects of mixed strain housing could be found on the phenotypes of either strain, including variables relevant to welfare. Differences and similarities between the two strains were almost all as expected from previously published studies, and none were affected by whether mice were housed in mixed- or single-strain pairs. Only one significant main effect of housing type was detected: mixed strain pairs had smaller red blood cell distribution widths, a measure suggesting better health (findings that now need replicating in case they were Type 1 errors resulting from our multiplicity of tests). Furthermore, mixed strain housing did not increase the variation in data obtained from the mice: the standard errors for all variables were essentially identical between the two housing conditions. Mixed strain housing also made animals very easy to distinguish while in the home cage. Female DBA/2 and C57BL/6 mice can thus be housed in mixed strain pairs for identification purposes, with no apparent negative effects on their welfare or the data they generate. This suggests that there is much value in exploring other combinations of strains.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere77541
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 06/09/2013

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