Sickness-induced changes in physiology do not affect fecundity or same-sex behavior

Previous work in our lab has shown that early-life infection affects female reproductive physiology and function (i.e., smaller ovaries, abnormal estrous cycles) and alters investigation and aggression towards male conspecifics in a reproductive context. Although many studies have investigated the effects of postnatal immune challenge on physiological and behavioral development, fewer studies have examined whether these changes have ultimate effects on reproduction. In the current study, we paired Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) and simulated a bacterial infection in early life by administering lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to male and female pups on pnd3 and pnd5. In adulthood, hamsters were paired with novel individuals of the same sex, and we scored an array of social behaviors (e.g., investigation, aggression). We then paired animals with individuals of the opposite sex for 5 consecutive nights, providing them with the opportunity to mate. We found that females exhibited impaired reproductive physiology and function in adulthood (i.e., smaller ovaries and abnormal estrous cycles), similar to our previous work. However, both LPS-treated males and females exhibited similar same-sex social behavior when compared with saline-treated controls, they successfully mated, and there were no significant changes in fecundity. These data suggest that the physiological changes in response to neonatal immune challenge may not have long-term effects on reproductive success in a controlled environment. Collectively, the results of this study are particularly important when investigating the relationships between physiology and behavior within an ultimate context. Animals exposed to early-life stress may in fact be capable of compensating for changes in physiology in order to survive and reproduce in some contexts.

Publication Date:
Feb 01 2019
Date Submitted:
Jul 01 2019
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 Record created 2019-07-01, last modified 2019-07-24

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