Scent marking, dominance and serum testosterone levels in male domestic rabbits.

Abstract

The European rabbit, both in its wild and domesticated forms, has been a pioneer species in the study of mammalian chemical communication, and illustrates well the difficulty of understanding the functional significance of these often complex signals. Here we investigate the performance of one of the rabbit's most conspicuous chemical signaling behaviors, chin marking (chinning), and the hypothesis that this expresses social dominance. In tests of 21 chinchilla-strain sexually mature males we predicted 1) that animals would show marked and stable individual differences in the frequency of chinning, 2) that these differences would correlate with behaviors associated with dominance such as intrasexual mounting, and 3) that individual differences in the frequency of chinning and dominance-related behaviors would correlate with individual differences in a commonly used physiological indicator of dominance, concentration of serum testosterone. Supporting these predictions and consistent with previous reports, animals showed large and stable individual differences in the frequency of chinning which correlated with the behavioral indicators of dominance and less strongly, with serum testosterone. As our animals had been kept in single cages and without direct contact with other males since weaning, these findings raise the question as to how and when during development such differences among individuals arise. We are currently investigating the possible relation between pups' intrauterine position, postnatal competition among littermates for milk and thermally advantageous positions in the litter huddle, and later differences in indicators of dominance such as those reported here.

DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.03.005

Cite this paper

@article{Arteaga2008ScentMD, title={Scent marking, dominance and serum testosterone levels in male domestic rabbits.}, author={Lourdes T Arteaga and Amando Bautista and Margarita Mart{\'i}nez-G{\'o}mez and Leticia Nicol{\'a}s and Robyn Hudson}, journal={Physiology & behavior}, year={2008}, volume={94 3}, pages={510-5} }