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Hormonal control of birth behavior in the Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 18:04 authored by Rose, RW, Bell, LA, Shaw, G
In a number of marsupial species, females exhibit characteristic, stereotyped parturient behavior that facilitates the passage of the neonates to the pouch. In macropodids, this parturient behavior can be induced in non-pregnant females and males by treatment with either prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) or oxytocin (OT). This study investigated the effects of PGF2α and OT on behavior of Tasmanian devils. Animals tended to sit or lie down quickly, with little vocalization, after treatment with PGF2α or OT, while after saline, the animals remained alert, seldom sat, and frequently vocalized. Hormone treatment caused increased respiration. Urogenital and pouch grooming, a characteristic element of parturient behavior in macropodids, was seen in only one devil after hormone treatment. However, no pouch or urogenital grooming was seen in videotape of a devil giving birth, so this may not be a feature of parturient behavior in this species. Overall behavior of males and females was very similar suggesting that the behavioral effects observed may be due to direct neural action of PGF2α or OT, rather than an indirect response to uterine or vaginal contractions caused by the hormones. This study is the first to demonstrate that OT results in PGF2α secretion as PGFM levels rose after OT injection. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Hormones and Behavior








School of Natural Sciences


Academic Press Inc

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