Social instability during pregnancy and lactation alters female wild cavy offsprings’ endocrine status and behaviour later in life

in Behaviour
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The social environment shapes the individual behavioural profile during early phases of life. In guinea pigs the behavioural profile of daughters whose mothers experienced social instability during pregnancy and lactation (UE-daughters) are behaviourally masculinised. Since guinea pigs are domesticated the question arises whether this phenomenon was brought about by domestication or whether it represents an adaptive behavioural mechanism inherited from their wild ancestor, the wild cavy. This study, therefore, investigates the effects of an early unstable social environment on the biobehavioural profile of daughters in wild cavies and compares these effects with the findings in the domestic form. Our results show higher frequencies of aggression and play behaviour in UE-daughters, indicating a comparable behavioural masculinisation as in guinea pigs. Thus, the observed behavioural changes in UE-daughters cannot have been brought about by artificial selection during domestication. Rather they represent maternal effects evolved through natural selection.

Social instability during pregnancy and lactation alters female wild cavy offsprings’ endocrine status and behaviour later in life

in Behaviour

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Figures

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    Frequency of play behaviour (sum of frisky hops and run off) per hour. Spontaneous behaviour was analysed within four defined life phases, which were 21–40, 41–60, 61–80 and 81–100 days. SE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in a stable social environment during pregnancy and lactation; UE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in an unstable social environment during pregnancy and lactation. Data are shown as medians, 10th, 25th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Statistics: Mann–Whitney U-test (two-tailed): days 21–40: NSE=10, NUE=12; 41–60: NSE=11, NUE=12; 61–80: NSE=NUE=12; 81–100: NSE=12, NUE=10.

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    Frequencies of agonistic behaviours (fixation, head up and chasing) per hour. Spontaneous behaviour was analysed within four defined life phases, which were 21–40, 41–60, 61–80 and 81–100 days. SE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in a stable social environment during pregnancy and lactation; UE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in an unstable social environment during pregnancy and lactation. Data are shown as medians, 10th, 25th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Statistics: Mann–Whitney U-test (two-tailed): days 21–40: NSE=10, NUE=12; 41–60: NSE=11, NUE=12; 61–80: NSE=NUE=12; 81–100: NSE=12, NUE=10.

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    Frequency of resting with bodily contact per hour. Spontaneous behaviour was analysed within four defined life phases which were 21–40, 41–60, 61–80 and 81–100 days. SE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in a stable social environment during pregnancy and lactation; UE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in an unstable social environment during pregnancy and lactation. Data are shown as medians, 10th, 25th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Statistics: Mann–Whitney U-test (two-tailed): days 21–40: NSE=10, NUE=12; 41–60: NSE=11, NUE=12; 61–80: NSE=NUE=12; 81–100: NSE=12, NUE=10.

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    Plasma cortisol concentration (ng/ml) on days 20, 34, 48, 62, 76, 90 and 104 of age. SE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in a stable social environment during pregnancy and lactation; UE-daughters, daughters whose mothers had lived in an unstable social environment during pregnancy and lactation. Data are shown as means and SEM. Statistics: for details see text; days 20, 34, 48 and 62: NSE=NUE=12; 76, 90 and 104: NSE=12, NUE=10.

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