Maternal Anogenital Licking in Rats: Exploring the Dam’s Differential Sexual Treatment of Pups

  • Isabelle Brouette-Lahlou
  • Evelyne Vernet-Maury
  • Francine Chastrette
  • Jacques Chanel


Licking the neonate’s anogenital region is a maternal behavior seen in most rodents. This behavior, termed maternal anogenital licking (MAGL), was described for domestic Norway “laboratory” rats by Rosenblatt and Lehrman (1963) and was also analyzed by Charton et al., (1971). In laboratory rats, MAGL lasts up to weaning; it stimulates reflexive urination and facilitates urine production in the neonates. Its behavioral role in recycling water and ions is part of the complex nutritional interaction between mothers and neonates (Gubernick and Alberts, 1983). In a previous work (Brouette-Lahlou et al., 1991b), we found that chemicals in the pup’s preputial gland secretions apparently provide a target for MAGL behavior and contribute to its homeostatic regulation. We found that after pup’s preputial glands had been ablated, abbreviated as PPX, MAGL behavior was not only present but its duration was enhanced. We propose that the increased duration of MAGL after pup PPX is due to the mothers’ unmet appetite to detect/ingest their pup’s preputial -gland secretions. Moreover, Moore and Samonte (1986) demonstrated that a pup’s preputial gland secretions are used by dams to discriminate that pup’s sex.


Maternal Behavior Bout Duration Ultrasonic Vocalization Preputial Gland Behavioral Role 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Brouette-Lahlou
    • 1
  • Evelyne Vernet-Maury
    • 1
  • Francine Chastrette
    • 2
  • Jacques Chanel
    • 1
  1. 1.Emotion et VigilanceCapteurs Biomédicaux INSA LyonVilleurbanne cedexFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Chimie Organique PhysiqueCNRS - Université Claude Bernard/LyonVilleurbanne cedexFrance

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