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Horm Behav. 1999 Jun;35(3):241-53.

The roles of stimuli from young, previous breeding experience, and prolactin in regulating parental behavior in ring doves (Streptopelia risoria).

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201, USA.


In addition to stimulating crop "milk" formation in ring doves, prolactin (PRL) may promote the parental regurgitation behavior that transfers this "milk" to the young at the time of hatching. Although earlier studies suggest that previous breeding experience is an important modulator of PRL-induced parental regurgitation behavior in ring doves, the ways in which experience, hormones, and stimuli from young interact to promote parental behavior have not been well characterized in this species. In the first study, untreated, nonbreeding female doves with and without previous breeding experience were given 10 daily parental behavior tests (2 h/day) with a hungry 5- to 10-day-old foster squab. Experienced females exhibited a higher incidence of regurgitation behavior, defensive behavior, and crouching or sitting in the nest than did inexperienced females. In a second study, nonbreeding females were given 10 daily tests for parental behavior while they received sc injections of ovine PRL or vehicle. Prolactin reduced squab-directed aggression and increased the incidence of regurgitation feeding behavior of foster squabs in both experienced and inexperienced females. However, the average number of regurgitation feeding acts displayed by those PRL-treated females that showed the behavior was over eight times higher in experienced females than in inexperienced females. Previous experience also enhanced the stimulatory effects of PRL on defensive behavior and crouching or sitting in the nest. The parental behavior exhibited by nonbreeding, PRL-treated experienced females was qualitatively and quantitatively similar to that observed in normally breeding females during a single test with their own hungry 5- to 10-day-old squabs. These findings indicate that PRL and previous breeding experience both enhance the parental responsiveness of nonbreeding female doves and that under optimal hormonal, experiential, and squab exposure conditions, nonbreeding doves exhibit levels of parental activity that rival those of normally breeding parents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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