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Physiol Behav. 2009 Mar 2;96(3):476-80. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.11.014. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Puberty in female cavies (Cavia aperea) is affected by photoperiod and social conditions.

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Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Bielefeld, PO Box 10 01 31, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany.


In many environments, photoperiod is a reliable predictor of ecological conditions. Such predictability generally declines towards low latitudes as the yearly cycle becomes less marked. It has been claimed that photoperiodic effects are small in cavies and guinea pigs that reproduce throughout the year. We here investigated photoperiodic influences on the onset of puberty in female cavies (Cavia aperea) and show that photoperiod exerts a major influence. Female pups kept in groups of two matured at about 47 days when born into lengthening (from 10:14 to 12.5:11.5 L:D) and 79 days when born into shortening day length (from 14.5:9.5 to 12:12 L:D) and kept under identical short day conditions after weaning on day 20 of life (12.25:11.75 L:D). As shown previously, social conditions, especially the presence of an adult male, proved important modifiers of the onset of maturity in females. Differential stress cannot be responsible for the social effects on puberty as social conditions did not affect cortisol levels in young females. We conclude that photoperiod plays an important role in gearing the onset of cavy reproduction to the seasons and that specific male stimuli rather than unspecific effects of stressors accelerate female maturation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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