Long-term behavioral effects of social separation during early life in a social mammal, Octodon degus

Sci Rep. 2023 Jun 12;13(1):9518. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-36745-6.


Social separation is thought to induce a strong stress response in social juvenile mammals, but little is known about how this response might vary throughout the development. The present study examines the long-term effects of early-life stress (ELS) induced by social separation on individual behaviors later in life using the social and precocious species Octodon degus. Four experimental groups were established a positive control group of mothers and siblings from six litters comprised the socially housed (SH) group, while pups from seven litters were randomly assigned to three treatments: pups experiencing no separation (NS) treatment while their siblings did; repeated bouts of consecutive separation (CS); intermittent separation (IS). We analyzed the effects of separation treatment on the frequency and duration of freezing, rearing and grooming behaviors. ELS was correlated with higher hyperactivity, and hyperactivity increased with more frequent separation. However, the behavioral trend of the NS group changed to hyperactive in long-term observation. The findings suggest that the NS group was indirectly affected by ELS. In addition, suggesting ELS acts to converge an individual's behavioral tendencies in a certain direction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Mothers
  • Octodon*
  • Siblings