This experiment was concerned with the role of the environment in the production and form of apomorphine-induced pecking of pigeons. Earlier literature has suggested that the pecking occurs even when pigeons are placed in complete darkness, but there are no systematic or quantitative reports of such pecking. Six pigeons were tested with doses of 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0 mg/kg apomorphine. Tests were made in conditions of white and infrared light. The apparatus used novel force transduction measures that provided for both the detection of a peck as well as its peak forcefulness. At the lowest dose tested, apomorphine elicited pecking when the pigeon was placed in white light, but not when the dose was examined under infrared lighting. As the dose increased, however, pecking was observed regardless of lighting condition. No consistent differences were found in forcefulness of pecking as a function of lighting condition or dose. Though response output was seemingly unaffected by the lighting condition at higher doses, videotaped analysis revealed important changes in the formal characteristics of pecking. In white light, apomorphine elicited pecking at stimuli in the chamber (e.g. screw heads or the pigeon's own toes), whereas in infrared light pecking was directed at the floor directly in front of the pigeon. Such differences may be attributable to shifts in control to other stimulus modalities when vision is limited. Additionally, apomorphine may have direct effects on retinal dopamine function modulating the expression of pecking in the dark.
aSchiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, 1000 Sunnyside Ave, Dole HDC
Departments of bApplied Behavioral Science
cPharmacology and Toxicology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA
Correspondence to Jonathan W. Pinkston, Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, 1000 Sunnyside Ave, Dole HDC, Rm 1052, Lawrence, KS 66049, USA
Received 31 January 2008 Accepted as revised 19 May 2008