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Horm Behav. 2007 Feb;51(2):265-72. Epub 2006 Dec 18.

Role of pregnancy and parturition in induction of maternal behavior in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster).

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Department of Psychology and Center for Neuroendocrine Studies, University of Massachusetts, Tobin Hall, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


In prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster), most virgin females are infanticidal. To determine the onset of maternal responsiveness, female prairie voles were tested for maternal behavior as virgins and at different times throughout pregnancy. Female voles that were infanticidal as virgins by and large remained infanticidal throughout pregnancy. In contrast, about 30% of voles that were maternal as virgins became infanticidal during pregnancy. To test whether events associated with parturition facilitate the onset of maternal behavior, females had their litters delivered by Caesarean section within a day of expected delivery or were allowed to give birth naturally with sham surgery occurring shortly before or after birth. Females that gave birth naturally were fully maternal and did not attack unrelated pups, but females subjected to artificial delivery remained infanticidal. This suggests that events closely related to parturition are crucial for full development of maternal behavior in female prairie voles.

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