Letter | Published:

Thermoregulation and the maternal behaviour of the rat

Abstract

THE time that a mother rat spends with her litter declines progressively during the first two postpartum weeks1–3. In view of the increasing nutritional demands placed on her by the litter this declining nest-time seems paradoxical and suggests that factors other than those usually associated with the process of milk delivery may be in operation. The size and thermal output of the litter also increase, placing greater limits on maternal heat loss through the ventral skin while the mother is nesting. In this letter we report preliminary evidence supporting the hypothesis proposed by Croskerry2 that thermoregulatory requirements increasingly limit the duration of nest bouts and total nest time over the first 2 weeks.

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