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U. W. Huck

Summary. When female laboratory mice mated to dominant or subordinate stud males were exposed 1 day later to the original stud, a strange dominant male or a strange subordinate, strange dominant males induced more pregnancy block than did strange subordinates. However, the social status of the stud male did not significantly alter the risk of pregnancy block after exposure to strange males.

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U. W. Huck, R. D. Lisk, and C. L. Guyton

Summary. Hamsters were mated repeatedly at 60, 180, 300 and 420 days of age or once during their lifetime at one of these ages. Copulatory stimulation was varied both for number of ejaculations (2 versus 14) and amount of vaginocervical stimulation (5 versus 50–60 intromissions). Two ejaculations provided sufficient spermatozoa to maximize litter size for all age and parity classes tested. Differences in fecundity depended on the amount of vaginocervical stimulation received. Higher levels of vaginocervical stimulation increased littering success at 300 and 420 days for nulliparous females and at 180, 300 and 420 days for multiparous females. Females which did not deliver litters did not show a cessation of oestrous cycles which characteristically follows the induction of a luteal phase. The decreased fecundity observed with increasing age or parity therefore resulted from a change in sensitivity to the stimulus conditions necessary to activate the neuroendocrine are for establishment of pregnancy.

Keywords: age; parity; pregnancy initiation; litter size; vaginocervical stimulation; golden hamster

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K. E. Wynne-Edwards, U. W. Huck, and R. D. Lisk

Summary. Females housed with their mates for 3 or 4 days before mating took place (i.e. early in the oestrous cycle at the time of introduction to the mate) were significantly more likely to litter than were females housed with their mates for only 1 or 2 days before mating. The duration of post-copulatory pair contact had a complex effect on pregnancy success. While only 41% of females littered when they had 24 h of post-copulatory pair contact, females exposed to either longer or shorter durations of post-copulatory pair contact littered at significantly higher rates. Exposure to a strange male 24–48 h after mating did not produce a strange-male induced pregnancy block. The critical parameter responsible for the decrease in the number of females littering was the absence of the mate, irrespective of the presence or absence of a strange male. If this pattern of pregnancy block is adaptive for females, it seems probable that females in the wild require substantial levels of paternal investment by their mates.

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U. W. Huck, R. D. Lisk, and C. Thierjung

Summary. When maintained under a 14L:10D photoperiod, the duration of behavioural receptivity in female golden hamsters was about 18–21 h depending on age and/or parity. The effectiveness of mating stimuli in initiating pregnancy was shown to be a function of when in the receptive period (early, middle, late) that mating occurred. During the 9-h period before ovulation, 5 ejaculatory series were sufficient to produce a nearly 100% pregnancy rate and maximum litter size. During the ovulation period, however, high pregnancy rates were achieved only when mating continued to satiety (12–15 ejaculatory series plus 10–24 long intromissions). Late in the receptive period even mating to satiety failed to result in a pregnancy. In general, pregnancy rates were significantly higher for young virgin than for older multiparous females when mating occurred during or after the ovulation period. The reduced fecundity of females mating during or after ovulation was due to insufficient vaginocervical stimulation to induce functional luteal activity and not to lack of spermatozoa. Females mating late in the receptive period did not show a cessation of oestrous cycles which characteristically follows the induction of a luteal phase. Greater amounts of vaginocervical stimulation during this time increased the number of females which delivered litters but had no significant effect on litter size. These results suggest that levels of male copulatory behaviour considered 'excessive' when mating occurs early in the receptive period are essential for pregnancy initiation when mating occurs later.

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U. W. Huck, N. C. Pratt, J. B. Labov, and R. D. Lisk

Summary. Golden hamsters that were mated repeatedly from 55 days of age produced 6–12 litters. Litter size at birth rose between the 1st and 2nd litters, peaked on the 3rd, and declined steadily after the 5th litter. Offspring sex ratio (% male) at birth followed a similar pattern: increasing between the 1st and 2nd litters, remaining high through the 3rd, and becoming increasingly female-biased thereafter. Weaning success decreased sharply after the 6th litter and most dams failed to raise any young to weaning after the 9th litter. These sequential effects on litter size, offspring sex ratio and weaning success were also observed in females mated once at different ages, but they occurred considerably later in life, i.e. increasing parity hastened the effects of advanced age. These ageand parity-related changes in litter composition are consistent with the Trivers–Willard hypothesis that physiologically-stressed females would skew offspring sex ratios to favour daughters. However, since the observed changes in sex ratio were probably due to differential prenatal mortality, their adaptive significance is unclear.

Keywords: age; parity; sex ratio; weaning success; golden hamsters; litter size