Using Tinbergen's approach to understand play

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Himmler, Stephanie M.
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Neuroscience
Play fighting has been proposed to provide animals with experiences that promote behavioural flexibility, which helps them to successfully navigate their physical and social environments later on in life. However, there is much variation in how closely related species play, indeed, even among different strains of rats aspects of their play differ. Is all this variation adaptive in serving play’s critical developmental role? The integrative approach advocated by Tinbergen, suggests not. Among rat strains, the differences in play are simply byproducts of subtle sensorimotor differences. Irrespective of the form of the play, rats of all strains converge on the same key experiences during play that are useful for promoting the development of the prefrontal cortex. That is, the experiences derived from play, despite variations, leads to the same outcome. The lessons learnt from rats serve as a guide for cross-species comparisons.
play fighting , prefunctional development , domestication , rats , reciprocity