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Early development and the emergence of individual differences in behavior among littermates of wild rabbit pups

Abstract : The ontogeny of associated individual differences in behavior and physiology during early postnatal life, and inparticular the emergence of such differences among litter siblings, has been hardly explored in mammalsunder natural conditions. We studied such within-litter differences in behavior in European rabbit pupsOryctolagus cuniculus prior to weaning, and whether and how these differences co-varied with other individualcharacteristics such as postnatal body temperature and early growth. The study was conducted under seminaturalconditions in a colony of rabbits of wild origin,where the youngwere born and developed in nursery burrows.Weequipped two siblings per litterwith interscapular skin temperature loggers on postnatal day 2 and recordedtemperature profiles for 48 h. Individual body (skin) temperatures of pups within litters were repeatableacross time, indicating the existence of consistent individual differences. Such differences within litters were associatedwithrelative differences in pre-weaning growth, revealing that relativelywarmer pups showed a greaterincrease in body mass during the nest period. Between postnatal days 12 and 17, after the pups had reached adevelopmental stage of greater mobility, we carried out different behavioral tests: a handling-restraint test, anopen field test and a jump-down test from a platform. Individual responses in the former two tests were associated,as those pups showing a quicker struggling response to restraint during handling also exhibited greater exploratoryactivity in the open field. This correlation across contexts suggests the existence of personality types inwild rabbits at an early developmental stage. Furthermore, pups' behavioral responses were strongly associatedwith their relative within-litter body mass at testing. Animals with a lower body mass compared to their siblingsshowed a relatively quicker struggle response to handling restraint and covered a relatively larger distance in theopen field, suggesting greater reactivity and responsiveness of relatively lighter pups in these tests. In contrast,relatively heavier pups jumped sooner from the platform, which may have been due to their greater physicalmaturation. In conclusion, our study shows that individual differences in behavior and associated differencesin body temperature and growth are already present during early postnatal life, although such relationshipscan be easily overlooked, as they predominantly emerge as relative differences among littermates.
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https://hal-univ-paris13.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02168919
Contributeur : Heiko Rödel <>
Soumis le : samedi 29 juin 2019 - 20:43:14
Dernière modification le : mercredi 2 septembre 2020 - 18:35:16

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Heiko G. Rödel, Heiko Rödel, Amando Bautista, Manuel Roder, Caroline Gilbert, et al.. Early development and the emergence of individual differences in behavior among littermates of wild rabbit pups. Physiology & Behavior, 2017, 173, pp.101-109. ⟨10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.01.044⟩. ⟨hal-02168919⟩

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