Alloparenting enhances the emotional, social and cognitive performance of female African striped mice, Rhabdomys pumilio

Pillay, Neville, and Rymer, Tasmin L. (2015) Alloparenting enhances the emotional, social and cognitive performance of female African striped mice, Rhabdomys pumilio. Animal Behaviour, 99. pp. 43-52.

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Maternal care, either of a female's own biological offspring or of fostered young, alters the behavioural, endocrine and brain functions of rodents. We asked whether female African striped mouse alloparents (i.e. those assisting in raising their younger siblings) are similarly influenced. We tested whether alloparental care enhances factors of ecological importance by assessing the emotional response, social competitive ability and spatial learning and memory of age-matched, sexually mature females assigned to one of five treatments based on their housing arrangement: housed with their mothers (Alloparents), housed with their mothers, but did not raise a litter (Resident), separated from their mothers and younger siblings with a barrier (Barrier), housed alone (Alone) and primiparous breeders (Breeder). Ten females per treatment were subjected to a range of behavioural tests from 125 to 145 days of age. Breeders and Alloparents were indistinguishable in displaying greater disinhibition of novelty in open field tests, improved competitive ability during social interactions and improved spatial memory in the Barnes maze. Females that did not encounter pups (Resident, Barrier, Alone) did not show such enhanced abilities. These tests indicate that females that raise their own biological pups or help others to raise young benefit through better foraging skills and lowered anxiety in novel situations. Ultimately, alloparents derive direct benefits by improving their parental and foraging skills, in addition to indirect inclusive fitness benefits of caring for their young siblings.

Item ID: 37866
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0003-3472
Keywords: alloparental care, cognitive performance, emotion, helpers at the nest, social competition
Funders: National Research Foundation, South Africa
Projects and Grants: NRF, South Africa: 87769
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2015 15:19
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 70%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060803 Animal Developmental and Reproductive Biology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960811 Sparseland, Permanent Grassland and Arid Zone Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 20%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 80%
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