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Body‐mass changes in California mouse fathers

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Studies of biparental mammals demonstrate that males may undergo systematic changes in body mass as a consequence of changes in reproductive status; however, these studies typically have not teased apart effects of specific social and reproductive factors, such as cohabitation with a female per se, cohabitation with a breeding female specifically, and engagement in paternal care. We aimed to determine whether California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) fathers undergo systematic changes in body mass and if so, which specific social/reproductive factor(s) might contribute to these changes. We compared mean weekly body masses over a 5-week period in 1) males housed with another male vs. males housed with a non-reproductive (tubally ligated) female; 2) males housed with a tubally ligated female vs. males housed with a female that was undergoing her first pregnancy; and 3) experienced fathers housed with vs. without pups during their mate's subsequent pregnancy. Body mass did not differ between males housed with another male and those housed with a non-reproductive female; however, males housed with a non-reproductive female were significantly heavier than those housed with a primiparous female. Among experienced fathers, those housed with pups from their previous litter underwent significant increases in body mass across their mates' pregnancy, whereas fathers housed without pups did not. These results suggest that male body mass is reduced by cohabitation with a breeding (pregnant) female, but not by cohabitation with a non-reproductive female, and that increases in body mass across the mate's pregnancy are associated with concurrent care of offspring rather than cohabitation with a pregnant female. Additional work is needed to determine the mechanisms and functional significance, if any, of these changes in male body mass with reproductive condition.

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