Stress reactivity near birth affects nest building timing and offspring number and survival in the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

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Date: Jan. 29, 2021
From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 16, Issue 1)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,137 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

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Abstract :

The physiological response to stressors has great importance, and its variance has an adaptive role in the survival of individuals. This study describes the effects of stress-axis activation on maternal behavior during the birthing process (parturition) in captive rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). In this species, chances of survival are strongly influenced by nest quality. Thus, maternal care is initiated with nest preparation in late pregnancy, which itself is subject to strict and complex hormonal regulation. Among these hormones, progesterone is one of the most dominant in the process of nest construction. We have demonstrated that its level is altered by the level of cortisol elevation in the animal in question, potentially having an influence on the preparation of the nest for the newborn kittens. We found that does that had a constant and un-elevated level of cortisol metabolite while delivering their litters performed better than those individuals that showed an increased corticoid response around parturition. The latter group exhibited a perceptible delay in the building of their nests, and in addition, further losses were also experienced in their already smaller litters. As the quality of the nest itself proved to be was in no way inferior to those of the other group, this higher kitten-mortality rate may be attributed to impaired maternal behavior. Individual variances in cortisol levels may also result in subtle changes in hormonal regulation, potentially affecting the expression of maternal behavior. We have concluded that the higher level of cortisol detected in more-sensitive does effectively disrupts the natural hormonal regulation involved in their nest-building processes.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A650107276