Researchers have long understood early-life experiences to influence actions and behavior later in life for humans, but can be same be said about animals?
Curious researchers from the University of Liverpool wanted to find out, and so they conducted an intensive rearing study involving mice to learn more. The fruits of their work have been published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.
Image Credit: Pixabay
Upon performing a controlled experiment in which house mice were brought up under differing circumstances, the researchers learned that communally-reared male mice were more likely to exhibit competitive behavior toward unrelated mice than their single-reared male counterparts.
As it would seem, scent played an instrumental role in this behavior. Communally-reared male mice differentiated between the odors of related and unrelated mice, while single-reared male mice did not; the former also marked territory with their scent more often than the latter.\
The research also denoted the elevated sense of bravery of communally-reared male mice; they were more willing to explore unexplored territory than single-reared male mice, underscoring their readiness to take more risks for survival.
"Female house mice pursue two flexible social strategies, either raising their offspring in communal or single nests. This makes them an ideal model species to study how these different approaches shape future development," explained Dr. Stefan Fischer, the lead author of the paper.
"Since exploration tendencies and discrimination between kin and non-kin are likely to be advantageous when dispersing from the natal territory or in a high-density population, our findings suggest that communal rearing prepares male house mice for a competitive social environment."
The findings validate the notion that communally-reared mice have the edge later in life. The authors conclude that being raised in this manner teaches the mice essential lessons early in life that help them cope with dynamic environments when they grow up and wander away from relatives.
"Our results add to growing evidence that the early social environment influences the development of important behavioral competencies to cope with social challenges later in life," added Prof. Paula Stockley, a co-author of the study.
Future studies could help researchers discern whether this behavior is unique to house mice or replicable in other species. Furthermore, it should be interesting to see whether other animals exhibit comparable behavior in similar rearing circumstances.