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Physiol Behav. 2003 Jul;79(2):305-10.

Prenatal stress affects the rate of sexual maturation and attractiveness in bank voles.

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Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Ingardena 6, 30-060 Kraków, Poland.


Field studies reveal that bank vole females' mobility and aggression increase during pregnancy. Here we investigated the reaction of pregnant females to social stress evoked by short but frequent meetings with another female at the same stage of pregnancy. The stress neither evoked pregnancy termination nor affected pregnancy duration but had a long-term effect on the reproductive activity of the offspring. Prenatal stress reduced the rate of sexual maturation of voles as estimated at the age of 20 days. Uterine weights of prenatally stressed females and testes weights of prenatally stressed males were significantly lower than in offspring born to nonstressed mothers. Olfactory signals are known to be important in the sexual preferences of bank voles. Adult prenatally stressed females were more attractive to other adult females than were nonstressed animals. For bank vole males, however, prenatal stress decreased the attractiveness of females; adult males selected nonstressed females over stressed partners, by odor. This study shows that prenatal conditions evoked by short but frequent encounters with another pregnant female lead to delayed puberty in females and males, and decrease sexual attractiveness in adult offspring. These two negative effects may significantly limit the reproduction of prenatally stressed offspring.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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