Pup cannibalism: One aspect of maternal behavior in golden hamsters.

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.96). 09/1977; 91(5):1179-1189. DOI: 10.1037/h0077386

ABSTRACT In 5 experiments with a total of 157 golden hamsters (
Mesocricetus auratus), examination of the role of 6 factors (e.g., extreme litter size, illness of pups, and lack of maternal experience) generally held to affect incidence of litter cannibalism in the golden hamster revealed little influence of any of them on frequency of pup destruction. More than 75% of mothers in all conditions examined cannibalized a portion of their litters during the 1st few days postpartum. Termination of cannibalism was found to result both from reduction in litter size, consequent upon destruction of young, and from changes in the internal state of the mother following parturition. The outcome of additional studies indicated that mothers maintain litter size at an individually determined value, behaviorally compensating for experimental alterations in pup number. Results are interpreted as indicating that pup cannibalism in hamsters is an organized part of normal maternal behavior which allows an individual female to adjust her litter size in accord with her capacity to rear young in the environmental conditions prevailing at the time of her parturition. (21 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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