Individual variation in paternal responses of virgin male California mice (Peromyscus californicus): Behavioral and physiological correlates

Trynke R. de jong, Aniko Korosi, Breanna N. Harris, Juan Pablo Perea-Rodriguez, Wendy Saltzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

California mice Peromyscus californicus are a rodent species in which fathers provide extensive paternal care; however, behavioral responses of virgin males toward conspecific neonates vary from paternal behavior to tolerance to infanticide. Indirect evidence suggests that paternal responses might be influenced by social status potentially through increased stress and anxiety in subordinate males. To test this hypothesis, we housed 12 virgin male California mice in same-sex dyads on weaning and assessed their within-dyad subordinate or dominant status using food-competition and urine-marking tests. In addition, behavioral responses to an unrelated pup, expression of vasopressin (AVP) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) mRNA in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN), basal plasma levels of testosterone and corticosterone, and body mass were measured. Food-competition and urine-marking tests did not reveal strong or stable dominance-subordination relationships in male-male dyads. Latency to sniff a newborn pup was correlated negatively with urine marking in the center of a novel environment and positively with expression of AVP mRNA in the PVN. Because these three parameters are all associated with state anxiety in other rodent species, these results suggest that individual differences in paternal responsiveness may be influenced by individual differences in anxiety but not necessarily by social status in virgin male California mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-751
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume85
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2012

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