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Dev Psychobiol. 2001 Dec;39(4):231-46.

Developmental effects of selective breeding for an infantile trait: the rat pup ultrasonic isolation call.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and the Sackler Institute, College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


This article describes how continued selection for divergent levels of the 10-day-old infant rat's ultrasonic vocal (USV) response to isolation affects the time course of development of that and other possible co-selected traits from 3 to 21 days postnatally. Since selective breeding for an infantile trait has not been reported before, we collected from colleagues a number of predicted outcomes that reflect the wide range of current opinion on the relationship between microevolutionary and developmental processes. After 15 generations of selective breeding, we found widely divergent USV responses between 10-day-old High USV line (300 USV/2 min) and low USV line (15 USV/2 min) pups. The developmental trajectory of USV responses at 3 and 7 days of age also was markedly altered in both these lines in comparison to the randomly bred controls, but was much less affected in 14-, 18-, or 21-day-old pups, contrary to all predictions. The development of other behavioral responses to isolation generally remained unaffected by the continued selection as did physical traits, measures of temperature regulation and classic developmental milestones. Only two traits showed evidence of co-selection: High line pups showed more urination/defecation in response to isolation from 10 days on, and more rapid ear canal opening at 10 days. These and other findings are presented and discussed in relation to the developmental and evolutionary concepts on which the different predictions were based.

Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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