Animal behaviour, domestication and welfare – Jensen Group

two hens outdoors, two dogs in a forest environment, two chickens in indoor environment

What guides the many facets of how animals behave? How has it changed during domestication, and what does it tell us about their welfare? Focusing on chickens and dogs, we tackle such questions using ethology, genetics and epigenetics.

Welcome to the Jensen group!

We study the behaviour of domesticated animals. Our aim is to understand two fundamental aspects:

  • How is behaviour affected by the domestication process, and
  • How can we use behaviour to assess the welfare of animals kept by humans

Domestication as model system

We use domestication as a means to study the evolution of behaviour by comparing domestic animals with their wild ancestors. This allows us to analyse genetic and other mechanisms that shape behaviour.

In our research we work mainly with chickens. For example, we study domestication effects by selecting ancestral red junglefowl for reduced fear of humans, and we study the long-term effects of stress encountered early in life.

Another important area is the behaviour of dogs. Dogs are the oldest domesticated species, descending from wild wolves, and have evolved a set of unique behaviours making them well adapted to live with humans. We have for example mapped genes that affect their sociality towards people.

Genetics and epigenetics of behaviour

One important research field concerns the epigenetics of behaviour. Epigenetic variation, unlike strict genetic variation, is dynamic and responds to environmental input. For example, an animal that experiences stress will obtain epigenetic modifications to its genome, which in turn will affect how it responds in other situations.

Some epigenetic changes can be transferred across generations. Thus the stress experienced by one individual may change the behaviour and biology of its descendants, perhaps even several generations away.

Unique facilities

In our chicken facilities, we control our research from the point of breeding and hatching the animals, through infancy in the university's own chicken coops, to our behaviour laboratories equipped to handle advanced behaviour recording, to the physiology laboratories equipped for various types of surgery and measurements on animals. And all of this is combined with a world class molecular genetics lab.

We are one of the few labs in the world that keep a breeding population of red junglefowl, the wild ancestor to the chicken. Thus we are able to do comparisons directly to a wild ancestor, as well as breed crosses between modern chickens and their wild ancestors for genetic experiments.

We collaborate with hundreds of private dog owners throughout Sweden, who kindly participate in various behavioural tests and donate DNA from their pets.

Video

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The dog, The scientist´s best friend

 

Video

Stress research can advance
animal husbandry



Publications

A complete list can be reached via the link below to the institutional repository.

2024

Jasmine Heurlin, György Barabas, Lina Roth (2024) Behavioural synchronisation between different groups of dogs and wolves and their owners/handlers: Exploring the effect of breed and human interaction PLOS ONE, Vol. 19, Article e0302833 Continue to DOI
Andrey Hoglund, Rie Henriksen, Allison M. Churcher, Carlos M. Guerrero-Bosagna, Alvaro Martinez-Barrio, Martin Johnsson, Per Jensen, Dominic Wright (2024) The regulation of methylation on the Z chromosome and the identification of multiple novel Male Hyper-Methylated regions in the chicken PLOS Genetics, Vol. 20, Article e1010719 Continue to DOI

2023

Vitor Hugo Bessa Ferreira, Lea Lansade, Ludovic Calandreau, Felipe Barros Da Cunha, Per Jensen (2023) Are domesticated animals dumber than their wild relatives? A comprehensive review on the domestication effects on animal cognitive performance Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol. 154, Article 105407 Continue to DOI
John Lees, Fabio Pertille, Pia Lötvedt, Per Jensen, Carlos Guerrero Bosagna (2023) The mitoepigenome responds to stress, suggesting novel mito-nuclear interactions in vertebrates BMC Genomics, Vol. 24, Article 561 Continue to DOI
Rebecca Oscarsson, Per Jensen (2023) Potential domestication and tameness effects on prosocial behaviour in chickens PLOS ONE, Vol. 18 Continue to DOI

News

Per Jensen with a chicken in his hands.

Pioneer with animals’ best interests at heart

What do animals do? What do they think? Do they have feelings? These are questions that have fascinated people through the ages and represent a field of research of their own. In ethology, Linköping professor Per Jensen is one of the leading figures.

two chickens.

How young chickens play can indicate how they feel

Researchers have for the first time mapped the development of play in young chickens. The results show that the young chickens spend lots of time playing in different ways – just like puppies and kittens.

Per Jensen.

Per Jensen is awarded the NSS school collaboration prize

Per Jensen, professor of ethology, is the first to receive a newly established prize at the Faculty of Engineering, Linköping University: NSS School Collaboration Prize.

One dark chicken, one yellow and one in mixed colours.

Epigenetics linked to differences between modern and wild chickens

Some of the genetic differences that have arisen between domesticated chickens and their wild ancestors, the red junglefowl, are linked to epigenetic changes. Scientists at LiU have discovered a small number of “hotspots” in the DNA that control epig

adult Red Junglefowl

Domesticated chickens have smaller brains

Researchers from LiU suggest a process by which the timid junglefowl from the rain forest could have become today’s domesticated chicken.

urban gardeners harvest greens

49 million Swedish crowns for research into sustainable development

Ten researchers at LiU have been awarded grants by the Formas research council. The projects include research into urban cultivation, the possibility of capturing carbon dioxide after emission, and the welfare of laying hens.

Contact

Previous members

Postdocs

Tom Pizzari
Dominic Wright
Lina Roth
Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna
Rie Henriksen
Vivian Goerlich
Amir Fallahshahroudi
Richard Kirkden
Susanne Kerje

PhD students

Christina Lindqvist
Johanna Väisänen
Jenny Westander (ex Håkansson)
Annelie Andersson
Pia Lötvedt
Amir Fallahshahroudi
Maria Ericsson
Beatrix Agnvall (ex Eklund)
Johan Beltéky
Pernilla Foyer
Magnus Elfwing
Anna-Carin Karlsson
Daniel Nätt
Anders Wirén
Rebecca Katajamaa
Mia Nord 



Students

A number of masters students,
bachelor students and
internship students.

Organisation