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J Comp Psychol. 1984 Sep;98(3):232-45.

Postpartum and lactational estrus: a comparative analysis in rodentia.


Virgin rodents exhibiting cycling estrus have traditionally been used for comparative studies of reproductive behavior. However estrus occurs in other life-history contexts, some of which differ from cycling estrus (CE) in that (a) the female is disposed to behave both maternally and sexually and (b) they result in litter overlap (i.e., the simultaneous gestation and lactation of two litters). In this report, two of these other modes of estrus are examined, with emphasis on their evolutionary and ecological implications. By means of a literature search of the order Rodentia, postpartum estrus (PPE) and lactational estrus (LE) were documented in 15 families, 71 genera, and 141 species. Analysis of these data showed that PPE and LE were nonrandomly distributed across taxa. They were statistically overrepresented in the family Cricetidae and underrepresented in squirrels (Sciuridae) and in pocket mice and kangaroo rats (Heteromyidae). Analysis of the phenotypes by which PPE and LE are achieved suggests important differences between them and CE in several parameters of female reproductive effort and breeding strategy, including maternal and copulatory behavior, optimal timing of litters, and hormonal control of heat and lactation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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