Selective Breeding and Short-Term Access to a Running Wheel Alter Stride Characteristics in House Mice

Physiol Biochem Zool. 2017 Sep/Oct;90(5):533-545. doi: 10.1086/692909.


Postural and kinematic aspects of running may have evolved to support high runner (HR) mice to run approximately threefold farther than control mice. Mice from four replicate HR lines selectively bred for high levels of voluntary wheel running show many differences in locomotor behavior and morphology as compared with four nonselected control (C) lines. We hypothesized that HR mice would show stride alterations that have coadapted with locomotor behavior, morphology, and physiology. More specifically, we predicted that HR mice would have stride characteristics that differed from those of C mice in ways that parallel some of the adaptations seen in highly cursorial animals. For example, we predicted that limbs of HR mice would swing closer to the parasagittal plane, resulting in a two-dimensional measurement of narrowed stance width. We also expected that some differences between HR and C mice might be amplified by 6 d of wheel access, as is used to select breeders each generation. We used the DigiGait Imaging System (Mouse Specifics) to capture high-speed videos in ventral view as mice ran on a motorized treadmill across a range of speeds and then to automatically calculate several aspects of strides. Young adults of both sexes were tested both before and after 6 d of wheel access. Stride length, stride frequency, stance width, stance time, brake time, propel time, swing time, duty factor, and paw contact area were analyzed using a nested analysis of covariance, with body mass as a covariate. As expected, body mass and treadmill speed affected nearly every analyzed metric. Six days of wheel access also affected nearly every measure, indicating pervasive training effects, in both HR and C mice. As predicted, stance width was significantly narrower in HR than C mice. Paw contact area and duty factor were significantly greater in minimuscle individuals (subset of HR mice with 50%-reduced hind limb muscle mass) than in normal-muscled HR or C mice. We conclude that stride characteristics of house mice are adaptable in response to both selective breeding and changes in daily locomotor behavior (activity levels) that occur during as few as 6 d. These results have important implications for understanding the evolution and coadaptation of locomotor behavior and performance.

Keywords: artificial selection; body size; experimental evolution; gait; kinematics; locomotion; morphology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Breeding*
  • Gait / genetics*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / genetics*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Running