Maternal food restriction during lactation affects body weight and sexual behavior of male offspring in meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus)


Little is known about the occurrence of individual variation in sexual behavior and how maternal nutrition can affect this variation. We tested the hypothesis that male offspring of female meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, that were 30% food restricted (FR) during days 1-7 of lactation (FR 1-7), days 8-14 of lactation (FR 8-14), or late days 15-21 of lactation (FR 15-21) lactation show persistent, negative effects on their sexual behavior as adults relative to male offspring of females that were not food restricted. We measured three components of sexual behavior, attractivity, proceptivity, and receptivity, beginning when the males were 98 d of age. Food restriction during middle lactation (FR 8-14) but not during early (FR 1-7) and late lactation (FR 15-21) was sufficient to induce adult male voles to produce anogenital marks that were not as attractive as those produced by control males. Food restriction during lactation did not affect the proceptive behavior of male voles but did affect their receptivity. Only four of 12 FR 8-14 male voles mated compared to nine of 12 FR 1-7 males, eight of 12 FR 15-21 males, and eight of 11 control males. However, no differences existed in their copulatory behavior among the males that did mate. The body weight of FR 1-7 and FR 8-14 males was lower than that of FR 15-21 and control males when they were between 22 d of age (weaning) and 48 d of age (puberty) but was similar when the males were 98 d of age. Food intake was similar for the FR and control males between day 22 and day 98. It remains unclear, however, whether this type of maternal effect represents strategic programing of offspring behavior in response to the environment experienced by mothers or is a product of developmental processes of food restriction prior to weaning (Evolution 58, 2004, 2574). © 2014 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.

Publication Title