Send to

Choose Destination
Biol Lett. 2018 Nov 21;14(11). pii: 20180536. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0536.

The adaptive shaping of social behavioural phenotypes during adolescence.

Author information

Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Muenster, Badestrasse 13, 48149 Muenster, Germany
Muenster Graduate School of Evolution (MGSE), University of Muenster, Huefferstrasse 1A, 48149 Muenster, Germany.
Department of Psychology, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435, USA.
Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Muenster, Badestrasse 13, 48149 Muenster, Germany.


Developmental behavioural plasticity is a process by which organisms can alter development of their behavioural phenotype to be better adapted to the environment encountered later in life. This 'shaping' process depends on the presence of reliable cues by which predictions can be made. It is now established that cues detected by the mother can be used (primarily via hormones prenatally and maternal behaviour in the early postnatal stage) to shape the behavioural phenotype of her offspring. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that adolescence is another period in which conditions are well-suited for such shaping to occur. We review here how mammalian social behaviour may be shaped in adolescence. We identify limited extant examples, briefly discuss underlying mechanisms, and provide evidence that observed changes are indeed adaptive. We contend that while plasticity diminishes with age, the shaping of the behavioural phenotype in adolescence offers several advantages, including that adolescence is closer to the onset of mating than are earlier phases of life; that unlike earlier phases, information is obtained directly from the environment rather than mediated by the mother; and unlike later in adulthood, there is substantial underlying neural plasticity associated with development to support behavioural change. We also consider conditions that favour the occurrence of social behaviour plasticity during adolescence, including a high degree of sociality and a prolonged developmental period and the implication of these conditions for the occurrence of sex differences in the shaping process.


adolescence; behaviour; development; plasticity


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center