Postnatal effects on reproduction and maternal care in early- and late-maturing gerbils
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In previous papers, we have identified a number of differences in both the reproductive profiles and patterns of maternal care shown by female gerbils exhibiting vaginal opening either before or after weaning. Early-maturing females delivered their first litters when younger, produced a greater percentage of female offspring/litter, and a greater percentage of early-maturing daughters than late-maturing females. Further, early-maturing females exhibited reduced levels of maternal care, as assessed by time spent nursing, time pups were gathered in the nest, and probability of retrieval of displaced young. In the present experiments, we found that equating age at first parity of early- and late-maturing females (Experiment 1) eliminated differences between them in pup gathering, but not in pup retrieval or nursing. Further, equating age at first parity affected neither sex-ratios of litters at birth nor rate of maturation of daughters. Equating litter size at birth, sex-ratio of litters at birth, and maternal age at first parturition (Experiment 2) eliminated differences in the nursing behavior of early- and late-maturing females and reduced differences in retrieval behavior, but left rate of maturation of daughters unaffected. Last (Experiment 3), both daughters born to early-maturing females, reared by late-maturing females, and daughters born to late-maturing females, reared by early-maturing females, exhibited rates of maturation typical of daughters reared by their natural mothers.
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