Pup cannibalism: One aspect of maternal behavior in golden hamsters

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology (Impact Factor: 2.34). 09/1977; 91(5):1179-1189. DOI: 10.1037/h0077386


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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Available from: Bennett G. Galef, Dec 23, 2013
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    • "Maternal infanticide has been documented in several rodent lineages including ground squirrels , marmots, voles, rats, mice, and hamsters (reviewed in [26]). It has been estimated that more than 75% of Syrian hamster dams cannibalize some of their pups in the first few days postpartum [20], which is consistent with the present study and likely underestimates cannibalism between pup deliveries. The availability of metabolic fuels from food and fat stores may be important determinants of cannibalism . "
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    ABSTRACT: Mammalian offspring sex ratios can be biased via prenatal and postnatal mechanisms, including sperm selection, sex-specific embryo loss, and differential postnatal investment in males and females. Syrian hamsters routinely cannibalize some of their pups in the first days after birth. We present evidence that short day lengths, typically predictive of poor autumn and winter field conditions, are associated with male-biased sex ratios, achieved in part through selective perinatal maternal infanticide of female offspring. Higher peak litter sizes were associated with increased cannibalism rates, decreased final litter counts, and increased body mass of pups surviving to weaning. To our knowledge this is the first report of sex ratio adjustment by offspring cannibalism.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2012 · Physiology & Behavior
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    • "Offspring abandonment or cannibalism can also occur when litters are significantly larger than their optimum (Day & Galef, 1977; Gandelman & Simon, 1978). This situation may arise when mothers are unable to sustain the lactational costs of the litter that they originally produced because of adverse environmental circumstances (Mendl, 1994). "
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    ABSTRACT: This article reviews and critically discusses the relevance of animal data to research on child abuse and neglect. Although parental investment theory can be useful in investigating the adaptiveness, if any, of child abuse and neglect, the evolutionary approach also has some limitations. The most suitable animal models for investigating the psychosocial processes underlying child abuse and neglect are probably found among the nonhuman primates. Whereas the heuristic value of social deprivation paradigms may be limited, recent studies suggest that the spontaneous occurrence of infant maltreatment in monkeys may be the closest approximation to child maltreatment provided by nonhuman animals. The investigation of adaptive and maladaptive processes in the parenting behavior of socially living nonhuman primates can inform research on child abuse and neglect and allow investigators to conduct studies that would be difficult or impossible in humans.
    Preview · Article · Jun 1998 · Psychological Bulletin
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    • "Investigations of this type have typically involved either varying the litter size (e.g. Day & Galef 1977) or varying food availability (e.g. Perrigo 1987). "
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of infanticide and maternal aggression in rodents are reviewed to exemplify general ethical problems arising from research on predation and aggression. Three main areas are reviewed: (1) parental infanticide, when an experimental manipulation causes a parent to harm its young; (2) non-parental infanticide, when pups are placed with a strange adult; and (3) non-parental infanticide, when a strange adult is placed with a mother and litter and aggression between adults may occur. Field experiments are also considered. In each area, constraints on experimental design produce ethical problems; however, ways of minimizing stress are considered. Factors of ethical concern include: (1) observation and intervention to stop both killing of infants and adult aggressive interactions; (2) numbers of pups used in each test; (3) age of the pups; (4) the nature of infanticidal attack; (5) maternal aggression; (6) duration of interactions; (7) use of barriers to protect pups and provision of escape routes for defeated adults; and (8) experimental design and sample sizes. The importance of considering ethical points early in experimental studies is emphasized.
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