Editors' ChoiceReproductive Biology

Thank Your Mother

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Sci. Signal.  11 Jun 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 279, pp. ec134
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004408

Maternal effects and influence can sometimes prepare unborn offspring for some of the environmental conditions they may face. Dantzer et al. monitored a population of red squirrels and found that both natural and artificially induced increases in the number of conspecific calls increased the growth rate of pups because of increased glucocorticoid levels in the mother. The density stress experienced by mothers thus appears to stimulate them to produce pups that will grow faster and hopefully outcompete the many other pups expected to be produced in the dense population.

B. Dantzer, A. E. M. Newman, R. Boonstra, R. Palme, S. Boutin, M. M. Humphries, A. G. McAdam, Density triggers maternal hormones that increase adaptive offspring growth in a wild mammal. Science 340, 1215–1217 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]