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  • 1 Eötvös Loránd University Department of Ethology Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c H-1117 Budapest Hungary
  • 2 Budapest University of Technology and Economics Department of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry Műegyetem rakpart 3-9 H-1111 Budapest Hungary
  • 3 University of Pannonia Department of Limnology Egyetem utca 10 H-8200 Veszprém Hungary
  • 4 University of Bath Department of Biology and Biochemistry Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY UK
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Automated behavioural observations are routinely used in many fields of biology, including ethology, behavioural ecology and physiology. When preferences for certain resources are investigated, the focus is often on simple response variables, such as duration and frequency of visits to choice chambers. Here we present an automated motion detector system that use passive infrared sensors to eliminate many drawbacks of currently existing methods. Signals from the sensors are processed by a custom-built interface, and after unnecessary data is filtered by a computer software, the total time and frequency of the subject’s visits to each of the choice chambers are calculated. We validate the detector system by monitoring (using the system) and in the same time video recording mating preferences of zebra finches in a four-way choice apparatus. Manual scoring of the video recordings showed very high consistency with data from the detector system both for time and for frequency of visits. Furthermore, the validation revealed that if we used micro-switches or light barriers, the most commonly applied automatic detection techniques, this would have resulted in approximately 22% less information compared to our lossless system. The system provides a low-cost alternative for monitoring animal movements, and we discuss its further applicability.

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