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Prolactin levels in paternal striped mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) fathers

Physiology & Behavior
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2003.12.013
  • Paternal Care
  • Parental Care
  • Prolactin
  • Rhabdomys
  • Seasonality
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract Paternal behavior is associated with an increase in prolactin levels in fish, birds and mammals, including rodents. The striped mouse ( Rhabdomys pumilio) from southern Africa shows highly developed paternal care. We investigated whether striped mouse fathers have higher prolactin levels than nonfathers, and whether there is a relationship between tactile stimulation with pups and prolactin secretion in fathers. We measured serum prolactin in 42 male striped mice assigned to one of four different experimental groups (single males, paired males, fathers housed with mother and pups, and fathers separated from their family by a wire-mesh partition). Our results revealed no increases in prolactin levels in fathers, and fathers with tactile contact with pups did not have higher prolactin levels than the fathers that were prevented from making tactile contact with pups. In contrast, experienced males had higher prolactin levels than inexperienced males. Male striped mice are polygynous in nature, living in groups, with three breeding females, and are permanently associated with pups during the breeding season. In a field study, males had higher prolactin levels during the breeding season than during the nonbreeding season. Thus, prolactin secretion in the polygynous striped mouse might be regulated by environmental stimuli, whereas social stimuli might be important for monogamous species. This is the first study to demonstrate seasonal changes in prolactin levels in a free-living male mammal.

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