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In Scientific reports ; h5-index 158.0

Collecting quantitative information on animal behaviours is difficult, especially from cryptic species or species that alter natural behaviours under observation. Using harness-mounted tri-axial accelerometers free-roaming domestic cats (Felis Catus) we developed a methodology that can precisely classify finer-scale behaviours. We further tested the effect of a prey-protector device designed to reduce prey capture. We aligned accelerometer traces collected at 50 Hz with video files (60 fps) and labelled 12 individual behaviours, then trained a supervised machine-learning algorithm using Kohonen super self-organising maps (SOM). The SOM was able to predict individual behaviours with a ~ 99.6% overall accuracy, which was slightly better than for random forest estimates using the same dataset (98.9%). There was a significant effect of sample size, with precision and sensitivity decreasing rapidly below 2000 1-s observations. We were also able to detect a behaviour specific reduction in the predictability when cats were fitted with the prey-protector device indicating it altered biomechanical gait. Our results can be applied in movement ecology, zoology and conservation, where habitat specific movement performance between predators or prey may be critical to managing species of conservation significance, or in veterinary and agricultural fields, where early detection of movement pathologies can improve animal welfare.

Galea Nicole, Murphy Fern, Gaschk Joshua L, Schoeman David S, Clemente Christofer J