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Endocrinology of sociality: comparisons between sociable and solitary individuals within the same population of African striped mice


Schoepf, I; Schradin, C (2013). Endocrinology of sociality: comparisons between sociable and solitary individuals within the same population of African striped mice. Hormones and Behavior, 64:89-94.

Abstract

The social organization of species ranges from solitary-living to complex social groups. While the evolutionary reasons of group-living are well studied, the physiological mechanisms underlying alternative social systems are poorly understood. By studying group-living and solitary individuals of the same species, we can determine hormonal correlates of sociality without the problem of confounding phylogenetic factors. The African striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) is a socially flexible species, which can be solitary or alternatively form complex family groups, depending on population density and the extent of reproductive competition. We predicted group-living striped mice to show signs of reproductive suppression and social stress, resulting in higher corticosterone but lower testosterone levels when compared to solitary-living individuals. To determine whether differences in social organization correlated with hormonal differences, we collected blood samples from free-living striped mice during four breeding seasons when we experimentally induced solitary-living in philopatric individuals by locally reducing population density. Striped mice that were group-living did not change their corticosterone or estosterone levels during the study, indicating that there was no temporal effect during the breeding season. Striped mice of both sexes had significantly lower corticosterone levels after switching from group- to solitary-living. Solitary males – but not solitary females – had higher testosterone levels than group-living conspecifics. Our results suggest that group-living results in physiological stress and can induce reproductive suppression, at least in philopatric males. The switch to solitary-living may thus be a tactic to avoid reproductive competition within groups, and is associated with decreased stress hormone levels and onset of independent reproduction.

Abstract

The social organization of species ranges from solitary-living to complex social groups. While the evolutionary reasons of group-living are well studied, the physiological mechanisms underlying alternative social systems are poorly understood. By studying group-living and solitary individuals of the same species, we can determine hormonal correlates of sociality without the problem of confounding phylogenetic factors. The African striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) is a socially flexible species, which can be solitary or alternatively form complex family groups, depending on population density and the extent of reproductive competition. We predicted group-living striped mice to show signs of reproductive suppression and social stress, resulting in higher corticosterone but lower testosterone levels when compared to solitary-living individuals. To determine whether differences in social organization correlated with hormonal differences, we collected blood samples from free-living striped mice during four breeding seasons when we experimentally induced solitary-living in philopatric individuals by locally reducing population density. Striped mice that were group-living did not change their corticosterone or estosterone levels during the study, indicating that there was no temporal effect during the breeding season. Striped mice of both sexes had significantly lower corticosterone levels after switching from group- to solitary-living. Solitary males – but not solitary females – had higher testosterone levels than group-living conspecifics. Our results suggest that group-living results in physiological stress and can induce reproductive suppression, at least in philopatric males. The switch to solitary-living may thus be a tactic to avoid reproductive competition within groups, and is associated with decreased stress hormone levels and onset of independent reproduction.

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Additional indexing

Contributors:Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:03 Feb 2014 13:56
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 08:25
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0018-506X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.04.011

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