Animal Facility

Animal Facility

Most of the animals involved in experiments at our institute originate from our own breeding while some come from specialized laboratory animal breeders. Trained and experienced animal care staff, together with two veterinarians, ensures that the animals are kept in the best possible way according to animal welfare, taking into account the diverse needs of the different species. The husbandry conditions comply with the legal requirements and partly go well beyond those.

Our mice

... are kept in plastic cages with free access to food and water where they can retreat in small, igloo-shaped hideouts. Nesting material made of cardboard and dried plant fiber contributes to thermoregulation and provides the females with optimal conditions to care for their brood.

Enrichment for our mice

In the video, we show various enrichment opportunities that we offer to our mice. This allows them to perform species-specific behavior patterns, which increase their quality of life and enhance their well-being.

Our rats 

... are housed in spacious cages with elevated grid lids that allow for the species-specific rearing behavior. Tubes provide hideouts and paper tissues are available for the rats’ behavioral enrichment and nest building.

Rat tickling

“Rat tickling” mimics the species-specific play behavior of rats by introducing a certain sequence of movements. This is proven to increase the well-being of the animals and to reduce a possible stress-related negative influence on experimental results.

Our rabbits

... mainly live as a group on litter and straw on the ground. Each room offers cover and several hideouts. If required, small groups of up to four animals can be kept in spacious cages interconnected by removing partitions. Each animal is thus provided with sufficient opportunities to retreat.

Our alpaca herd

... comprising 22 animals lives on a large outdoor area with grazing land, sandpits, and fields of gravel, which was designed by a zoo design office. The animals have access to their spacious, bright stables at any time.

Our alpacas are usually easy to observe from the Nikolausberg forest paths or from our institute grounds.

Nanobodies from Alpacas

Alpacas have special antibodies which can be reduced to nanobodies. They have the potential to replace the most-used antibodies and to drastically reduce animal numbers in antibody production.

African clawed frogs, starfish, planarians, and jellyfish

We keep African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) in a freshwater aquarium system where the animals can use hiding places and artificial islands. The clawed frogs live at a water temperature of 18 °C. 

Our starfish (Patiria miniata ), in contrast, are saltwater aquatics that are kept at 16 °C. So-called "living" stones covered with algae and bacteria create water vortices and enrich the basins. 

Our jellyfish species Clytia hemisphaerica, whose keeping we have only recently established, also lives in salt water. As a particularly characteristic reproduction mechanism, the jellyfish derive from polyps, the early stage of development. When the polyps are large enough, a bubble-like formation develops on the side of the polyps– a mini jellyfish grows up and eventually detaches from the polyp. 

Planarians are also fairly new to our animal husbandry. They belong to the flatworms and live aquatically. We use several large aquarium facilities to keep the established laboratory species Schmidtea mediterranea. In addition, we keep many other planarian species from all parts of the world in their usual aquatic environments, some of which differ greatly from each other.

For our aquatic animals it is important that the respective water corresponds to their domestic conditions in the best possible way. For the frogs these are the African ponds, for the starfish it is the sea water of the Pacific Ocean. Water quality (hardness, salt concentration, pH-value, and pollutants) are constantly controlled and kept or adjusted by targeted water replacement.

Animal welfare and quality standards

The high-quality standards in animal husbandry and in animal experimental projects at the institute are constantly monitored by an animal welfare officer – an experienced specialist veterinarian for laboratory animals. The animal welfare officer is supported by an internal institutional commission.

In addition, the animal welfare officer advises the scientists in the planning and implementation of experiments that involve animals and ensures that stress to the animals is always kept to a minimum.

The animal facility offers qualifying courses to learn and train the expertise and skills required when working with laboratory animals. The courses are certified by the German Society for Laboratory Animal Science (GV-SOLAS). 

You can also inform yourself about our projects with laboratory animals on our portal on animal experiments.

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