Fearfulness affects quail maternal care and subsequent offspring development

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Abstract

Our study investigated relationships between a precocial bird's fearfulness and maternal care, and the implication of maternal care as a vector for non-genomic transmission of fearfulness to chicks. We compared care given to chicks between two sets of female Japanese quail selected to present either high (LTI) or low fearfulness (STI). Chicks, from a broiler line, were adopted by these females following a sensitization procedure. Chicks' fearfulness after separation from their mother was assessed by well-established procedures. LTIs took longer to present maternal responses, pecked chicks more during the first days post-hatch, presented impaired maternal vocal behaviour and were globally less active than STI females. Chicks mothered by LTIs presented more fearful reactions than did chicks mothered by STIs, supporting the hypothesis of a non-genetic maternal transmission of fearfulness. We suggest that the longer latencies required by LTIs to become maternal are a consequence of their greater fear of chicks, and that their lower general and vocal activity could be components of a heightened antipredatory strategy. We discuss the transmission of maternal fearfulness to fostered chicks, taking into account the possible implication of several well-known mechanisms underlying maternal effects. © 2014 Pittet et al.

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Pittet, F., Houdelier, C., Le Bot, O., Leterrier, C., & Lumineau, S. (2014). Fearfulness affects quail maternal care and subsequent offspring development. PLoS ONE, 9(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102800

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