Communal reproductive success in rats (Rattus norvegicus): effects of group composition and prior social experience

J Comp Psychol. 1993 Jun;107(2):216-22. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.107.2.216.


We compared the reproductive success and maternal behavior of sibling pairs of female Long-Evans rats (Rattus norvegicus) housed together from birth (familiar) to that of pairs of unrelated females housed apart during development (unfamiliar). Sires either remained in the colonies through weaning of their pups or were removed before parturition. Familiar animals reared more pups to weaning, were more likely to share in caring for their pups, and were less likely to exhibit infanticide than were unfamiliar ones. The presence of males in cages with pups had no direct effect on the reproductive success of females, but female pairs housed with males spent less time than female pairs housed alone caring for pups together in a combined nest. Conflicting evidence for communal rearing in populations of wild rats may reflect differences in the genetic relatedness or early social experience of female rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Breeding*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Rats
  • Weaning