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Oxytocin administration during early pair formation delays communal nursing in female house mice


Harrison, Nicola; Lopes, Patricia C; König, Barbara (2017). Oxytocin administration during early pair formation delays communal nursing in female house mice. Animal Behaviour, 123:61-68.

Abstract

Oxytocin manipulation has been implicated in the facilitation of social and cooperative behaviours, either through increasing positive and cooperative social interactions, or facilitating bond formation. Here we aimed to determine whether peripheral administration of oxytocin would affect the propensity of unrelated female house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) to cooperate. In order to investigate this we used female house mice, with their cooperative ability to communally nurse offspring. Pairs of unfamiliar females received intraperitoneal injections of oxytocin over a three-day cohabitation period. Following this initial phase, a male was introduced and they were allowed to reproduce. We monitored how long it took females to establish and successfully cooperate in the raising of a communal litter. Oxytocin did not affect the females’ ability to reproduce. However, oxytocin treated females took significantly longer to establish a successful communal litter (with pups of both partners being weaned) than saline treated control females. This delay in communal nursing was due to higher pup mortality and loss of first-born litters in the oxytocin group during their first reproductive event. We conclude that administration of exogenous oxytocin during the early stages of the female relationship delays the tendency of female house mice to affiliate and cooperate in the formation of a communal litter. Our findings contribute to the growing field of oxytocin based studies and sheds light on the potential long term effects of oxytocin during early pairwise social interactions.

Abstract

Oxytocin manipulation has been implicated in the facilitation of social and cooperative behaviours, either through increasing positive and cooperative social interactions, or facilitating bond formation. Here we aimed to determine whether peripheral administration of oxytocin would affect the propensity of unrelated female house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) to cooperate. In order to investigate this we used female house mice, with their cooperative ability to communally nurse offspring. Pairs of unfamiliar females received intraperitoneal injections of oxytocin over a three-day cohabitation period. Following this initial phase, a male was introduced and they were allowed to reproduce. We monitored how long it took females to establish and successfully cooperate in the raising of a communal litter. Oxytocin did not affect the females’ ability to reproduce. However, oxytocin treated females took significantly longer to establish a successful communal litter (with pups of both partners being weaned) than saline treated control females. This delay in communal nursing was due to higher pup mortality and loss of first-born litters in the oxytocin group during their first reproductive event. We conclude that administration of exogenous oxytocin during the early stages of the female relationship delays the tendency of female house mice to affiliate and cooperate in the formation of a communal litter. Our findings contribute to the growing field of oxytocin based studies and sheds light on the potential long term effects of oxytocin during early pairwise social interactions.

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Additional indexing

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)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Life Sciences > Animal Science and Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 January 2017
Deposited On:22 Nov 2018 13:58
Last Modified:28 Jul 2020 14:01
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0003-3472
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.10.030

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