C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice vary in lick rate and ingestive microstructure

Genes Brain Behav. 2007 Oct;6(7):619-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2006.00293.x. Epub 2006 Dec 21.


Fluid licking in mice is an example of a rhythmic behavior thought to be under the control of a central pattern generator. Inbred strains of mice have been shown to differ in mean or modal interlick interval (ILI) duration, suggesting a genetic-based variation. We investigated water licking in the commonly used inbred strains C57BL/6J (B6) and DBA/2J (D2), using a commercially available contact lickometer. Results from 20-min test sessions indicated that D2 mice lick at a faster rate than B6 mice (10.6 licks/s vs. 8.5 licks/s), based on analysis of the distribution of short-duration ILIs (50-160 ms). This strain difference was independent of sex, extent of water deprivation or total number of licks. D2 mice also displayed a faster lick rate when the strains were tested with a series of brief (5 s) trials. However, when ingestion over the entire 20-min session was analyzed, it was evident that D2 mice had an overall slower rate of ingestion than B6 mice. This was because of the tendency for D2 mice to have more very long pauses (>30 s) between sequences of licking bursts. Overall, it appeared that D2 mice licked more efficiently, ingesting more rapidly during excursions to the spout that were fewer and farther between.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drinking Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Species Specificity
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology*
  • Tongue / anatomy & histology
  • Tongue / physiology
  • Water Deprivation / physiology