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, 74 (9), 1596-603

Social Behavior and Kin Discrimination in a Mixed Group of Cloned and Non Cloned Heifers (Bos Taurus)

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Social Behavior and Kin Discrimination in a Mixed Group of Cloned and Non Cloned Heifers (Bos Taurus)

M Coulon et al. Theriogenology.

Abstract

For more than ten years, reproductive biotechnologies using somatic cell nuclear transfer have made possible the production of cloned animals in various domestic and laboratory species. The influence of the cloning process on offspring characteristics has been studied in various developmental aspects, however, it has not yet been documented in detail for behavioral traits. Behavioral studies of cloned animals have failed to show clear inter-individual differences associated with the cloning process. Preliminary results showed that clones favor each other's company. Preferential social interactions were observed among cloned heifers from the same donor in a mixed herd that also included cloned heifers and control heifers produced by artificial insemination (AI). These results suggest behavioral differences between cloned and non-cloned animals and similarities between clones from the same donor. The aim of the present study was to replicate and to extend these previous results and to study behavioral and cognitive mechanisms of this preferential grouping. We studied a group composed of five cloned heifers derived from the same donor cow, two cloned heifers derived from another donor cow, and AI heifers. Cloned heifers from the same donor were more spatially associated and interacted more between themselves than with heifers derived from another donor or with the AI individuals. This pattern indicates a possible kin discrimination in clones. To study this process, we performed an experiment (using an instrumental conditioning procedure with food reward) of visual discrimination between images of heads of familiar heifers, either related to the subjects or not. The results showed that all subjects (AI and cloned heifers) discriminated between images of familiar cloned heifers produced from the same donor and images of familiar unrelated heifers. Cattle discriminated well between images and used morphological similarities characteristic of cloned related heifers. Our results suggest similar cognitive capacities of kin and non kin discrimination in AI and cloned animals. Kinship may be a common factor in determining the social grouping within a herd.

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