Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success

Günther A, Kowalski G, von Engelhardt N (2014)
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68(10): 1661-1667.

Journal Article | Published | English

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Abstract
The prenatal social environment affects offspring development in most studied taxa with potentially lifelong consequences. To understand the adaptive significance of such maternal influences on offspring development, it is important to study their effects on fitness. In guinea pigs, social instability during pregnancy leads to delayed development of male offspring. This has been interpreted as an adaptation to high social densities, where young males need to queue for reproductive opportunities since they cannot out-compete older dominant males. The consequences for male reproductive success are, however, so far unknown. To study the effects of different prenatal social densities on offspring reproductive performance, we housed females individually or in small groups during late pregnancy. Offspring from both treatments were reared together in large groups until independence and thereafter housed in same-sex pairs of the same treatment. We then observed courtship, aggressive behavior, and reproductive success in a low-density context with one male from each treatment competing over access to two females. Sons born to individually housed females initiated more fights, had more social contacts, courted females more, and had a higher reproductive success than sons of group-housed females. Sons born to mothers experiencing low social densities before birth therefore perform better at low social group sizes, suggesting that male development may be adaptively adjusted to anticipated social densities, although performance under high densities still needs to be compared.
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Günther A, Kowalski G, von Engelhardt N. Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 2014;68(10):1661-1667.
Günther, A., Kowalski, G., & von Engelhardt, N. (2014). Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(10), 1661-1667.
Günther, A., Kowalski, G., and von Engelhardt, N. (2014). Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, 1661-1667.
Günther, A., Kowalski, G., & von Engelhardt, N., 2014. Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(10), p 1661-1667.
A. Günther, G. Kowalski, and N. von Engelhardt, “Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success”, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol. 68, 2014, pp. 1661-1667.
Günther, A., Kowalski, G., von Engelhardt, N.: Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 68, 1661-1667 (2014).
Günther, Anja, Kowalski, G., and von Engelhardt, Nikolaus. “Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success”. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68.10 (2014): 1661-1667.
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