Litter composition affects parental care, offspring growth and the development of aggressive behaviour in wild house mice

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The parental care and development of Mus musculus litters containing four male pups (MM litters) and litters containing one male and three females (MF litters) was compared. MF males developed into faster attackers than MM males. A variety of measures of sibling competitive and aggressive behaviour failed to provide any evidence that experience of success in competitive encounters played a prominent role in the development of individual differences in subsequent aggressiveness, but clear differences in parental behaviour and offspring growth were detected. Mothers of MF litters provided more maternal care and appeared to wean their offspring later than mothers of MM litters. Despite this, MF pups grew more slowly than MM pups, suggesting that their high levels of sucking behaviour reflected high milk demand, perhaps due to a low milk supply. Mothers of litters with a female-biassed sex ratio (MF mothers) may have been in poorer condition than those with a male-biased sex ratio (MM mothers), and consequently provided less adequate nutrition for their pups. Undernutrition during early life can result in the development of more aggressive individuals, perhaps by increasing competition for nipples and thereby promoting a more active/competitive mode of behaviour in later life. (See also 92L/07304). -from Authors

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-108
Number of pages19
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
') This work was supported by a Royal Society European Programme Fellowship to MM held at the University of Groningen. We are grateful to Jaap KRUIJT for providing facilities at the laboratory, to Geert van OORTMERSSEfoNr supplying the mice, and to Ineke BENUS,J ohan BOLHUIS,S erge DAAN, GERRITD E Vos, Ton GROOTHUISJ,a ap KOOLHAAJSa,a p KRUIJT, Carel ten CATEa nd Geert van OORTMERSSEfoNr much useful discussion during the course of this work. We also thank Pat BATESOaNn d Don BROOM for their comments, and Jan KOENESJ,a n NIJBOER and Marta RITSEMAfo r their technical assistance.


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