Behaviour 2019
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Mother-offspring interaction in the domestic rabbit – via feces?
Rodrigo Barrios Montiel1, Lourdes Arteaga2, Amando Bautista2, Robyn Hudson 3. 1Postgraduate in Biological Sciences, UATx, Tlaxcala , Tlaxcala, Mexico; 2Tlaxcala Center for Behavioral Biology, UATx, Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico; 3Institute of Biomedical Research, UNAM, Ciudad de México, Ciudad de México, Mexico

The European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, like various mammals, shows coprophagia (voluntary ingestion of feces). Benefits include the assimilation of nutrients present in the feces and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters by gut microbiota. In nature and in the lab, after giving birth in a plant-lined nest, rabbit mothers leave the young, returning once a day to briefly nurse. We previously observed that mothers also deposit fecal pellets in the nest. In a systematic study of this, we have presently recorded the unrestricted behavior of mothers and young of five litters. We found that mothers start to deposit fecal pellets in the nest 3–5 days before parturition and cease between PD 11­–13. From PD 13 – 14, pups begin to chew the pellets and nest material, which largely disappear by the time the pups leave the nest shortly before weaning around PD 25. The pattern of pellet deposition was similar in primiparous and multiparous females, suggesting it to be largely independent of maternal experience. We are presently examining the possible short- and long-term effects of the presence or absence of fecal pellets in the nest on the development of the young.