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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Early experience affects the traits of monogamy in a sexually dimorphic manner

  • Author(s): Bales, KL
  • Lewis-Reese, AD
  • Pfeifer, LA
  • Kramer, KM
  • Sue Carter, C
  • et al.

The goal of this study was to examine the effects of early life experiences on the subsequent expression of traits characteristic of social monogamy in prairie voles (Microtus ochwgaster). During cage changes parents and their offspring were either transferred between cages in a cup (zero manipulation, MAN0) or with a gloved hand (one manipulation, MAN1). Following weaning the offspring were tested for alloparental behavior. In adulthood they were tested for the capacity to form partner preferences, behavior in an elevated plus-maze (EPM), and corticosterone levels. MAN0 males (but not females) showed lower levels of alloparental behavior than MAN1 males. MAN0 females (but not males) were less likely to form pair bonds than MAN1 females. MAN0 animals of both sexes were less exploratory in the EPM than MAN1 counterparts. These experiments support the hypothesis that behaviors used to characterize monogamy are vulnerable in a sex-specific manner to early experience. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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