Experimental arena settings might lead to misinterpretation of movement properties

Inon Scharf*, Kimberley Hanna, Daphna Gottlieb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Movement is an important animal behavior contributing to reproduction and survival. Animal movement is often examined in arenas or enclosures under laboratory conditions. We used the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) to examine here the effect of the arena size, shape, number of barriers, access to the arena's center, and illumination on six movement properties. We demonstrate great differences among arenas. For example, the beetles moved over longer distances in clear arenas than in obstructed ones. Movement along the arena's perimeter was greater in smaller arenas than in larger ones. Movement was more directional in round arenas than in rectangular ones. In general, the beetles stopped moving closer to the perimeter and closer to corners (in the square and rectangular arenas) than expected by chance. In some cases, the arena properties interacted with the beetle sex to affect several movement properties. All these suggest that arena properties might also interact with experimental manipulations to affect the outcome of studies and lead to results specific to the arena used. In other words, instead of examining animal movement, we in fact examine the animal interaction with the arena structure. Caution is therefore advised in interpreting the results of studies on movement in arenas under laboratory conditions and we recommend paying attention also to barriers or obstacles in field experiments. For instance, movement along the arena's perimeter is often interpreted as centrophobism or thigmotaxis but the results here show that such movement is arena dependent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-284
Number of pages14
JournalInsect Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • activity
  • centrophobism
  • correlated random walk
  • laboratory experiments
  • movement ecology
  • wall-following behavior


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