Effects of consanguinity, exposure to pregnant females, and stimulation from young on male gerbils' responses to pups
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In three experiments investigating variables affecting responses of male Mongolian gerbils to conspecific young, we compared the behavior directed towards pups of natural fathers, virgin foster fathers, and sexually experienced foster fathers (Experiment 1); males either previously exposed or not exposed to pregnant females (Experiment 2); and males provided or not provided with extra opportunities to huddle over pups (Experiment 3). We found no difference in responses to pups among natural fathers, virgin foster fathers, and foster fathers that had fathered litters. On the other hand, both a week of exposure to a pregnant female and opportunity to huddle over pups for an extra 15 min/day had significant effects on males' subsequent responses to conspecific young. We speculate on the reasons why a male's response to pups might be affected by his exposure to a pregnant female and stimuli from pups, but not by the probability that the pups were his own offspring.
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