Social experience, behavior, and stress in guinea pigs

Physiol Behav. 1991 Jul;50(1):83-90. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(91)90502-f.


This study examined the effect of varying rearing and testing conditions on guinea pig aggression, courting behavior, endocrine responses and body weight. Pairs of 7-8-month-old males were placed in chronic confrontations for 6-50 days in 2 m2 enclosures. Social behavior was recorded with a total of 882 h observation time. Body weight as well as plasma glucocorticoid, testosterone and norepinephrine titers were determined for each male 20 h before, and 4, 52 and 124 h after, the onset of the chronic encounters. Three experiments were conducted: in Experiment I, 7 pairs of males, each male raised singly with one female (FRM), were confronted in the presence of an unfamiliar female, in Experiment II, 6 pairs of FRM were confronted with no female present, and in Experiment III, 7 pairs of males which were raised in different large colonies were confronted in the presence of an unfamiliar female. In Experiment II and III low levels of aggression, no distinct endocrine changes and no indications of physical injury occurred in winners or losers, whereas in Experiment I high levels of aggression and courting behavior, extreme increases in glucocorticoid titers and distinct decreases in body weights were found in both males. Losers, however, were affected to a much greater extent than winners. These findings suggest that in guinea pigs a causal relationship exists between social rearing conditions, behavior as adults and degree of social stress in chronic encounters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Agonistic Behavior / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*
  • Species Specificity
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Testosterone
  • Corticosterone
  • Norepinephrine