Maternal influences on the sexual behavior and reproductive success of the female rat

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In many species, including humans, there is evidence for parental effects on within-sex variations in reproductive behavior. In the present studies we found that variations in postnatal maternal care were associated with individual differences in female sexual behavior in the rat. Females born to and reared by dams that showed enhanced pup licking/grooming (i.e., High LG mothers) over the first week postpartum showed significantly reduced sexual receptivity and alterations in the pacing of male mounting (i.e., longer inter-intromission intervals) observed in a paced mating test. There were minimal effects on the sexual behavior of the male offspring. The female offspring of High LG mothers showed a reduced lordosis rating, a decreased mount:intromission ratio, received fewer ejaculations and were less likely to achieve pregnancy following mating in the paced mating context. The data suggest maternal influences on the sexual development of the female rat that are functionally relevant for reproductive success. Together with previous studies these findings imply that maternal care can ‘program’ reproductive strategies in the female rat.

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