Forrest Rogers (UC Davis)

- Quantitative Brown Bag Series

Nov 16, 2017
from 01:30 PM to 02:30 PM

166 Young Hall

Prairie voles are the premier non-human animal model for social monogamy and its associated behaviors, including the biparental care of offspring. Field and laboratory study of this species, both at behavioral and neuroendocrine levels, has given great insight to the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying monogamy. As a biparental species, both female and male prairie voles invest in the development of offspring. Previous work observing natural variation in and experimental manipulation of parental care suggests that pup-directed behaviors in development strongly influence adult behavioral phenotypes associated with monogamy (e.g., low contact care or paternal absence leads to delayed partner preference formation). The present research investigates how this parental investment changes across sequential litters of pups, and the extent to which it is coordinated across mothers and fathers. We use approximately six years of archival data on prairie vole parenting to investigate trajectories and inter-parent dynamics in prairie vole parenting. We use a series of latent growth models to assess the stability of parental investment across the first 4 litters. Our findings suggest that prairie voles display sexually dimorphic patterns of change in parental behavior: mothers’ investment declines linearly whereas fathers’ pattern of change is characterized by initial decline between litters 1 and 2 with subsequent incline from litters 2 to 4. Our findings also support a conclusion that prairie vole parenting may be better characterized as compensatory rather than coordinated—that is, fathers may compensate for decline in maternal investment, but fathers and mothers do not coordinate their investment in offspring. Opposing trends in investment between mothers and fathers ultimately imply stability in offspring investment across sequential litters. These findings, combined with previous studies, suggest that paternal compensation may play an important role in maintaining the development of monogamous behavioral phenotypes in individual offspring and across cohorts of those offspring. Understanding longitudinal and inter-individual dynamics of complex social behaviors is critical for the informed investigation of both proximate and ultimate mechanisms that may subserve these very behaviors.
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