Playful behaviour in relation to family group activity in polecats (Mustelidae)

Bunnell, Toni (1982). Playful behaviour in relation to family group activity in polecats (Mustelidae). PhD thesis The Open University.



Five family groups of polecat/ferrets and one group of albino ferrets have been studied over a period of 5 years. Consistent individual differences were found to exist regarding the number of play attacks and play initiations delivered and performance in agility tests. The animals which showed the highest tendency to initiate play also showed the highest tendency to perpetuate it, attacked at a higher rate and spent more time out of the nest, both during peak activity periods and following their completion. The more playful animals also showed a tendency to play together more, choice of partners being dependent on relative availability and playfulness of other animals. The results of this study suggest that in polecat/ferrets play functions mainly as a mechanism for helping develop and maintain social bonds between juveniles. Size (weight) was found to be a factor related to certain behavioural attributes which were closely correlated/ranked with each other, namely, play, exploration and agility. The heavier animals were found to play more, be more active and also more agile.

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