Passive Responses of Young Guinea Pigs During Exposure to a Novel Environment: Influences of Social Partners and Age

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Guinea pig pups exhibit a two-stage, active/passive response during isolation in a novel environment that resembles the “protest” and “despair” stages observed in some species of primates. The present study examined social and developmental influences on the expression of the passive stage of responsiveness in young guinea pigs. Both preweaning and periadolescent guinea pigs displayed the passive stage during isolation in a novel environment. In preweaning pups and periadolescents that had been housed with the mother since birth, the presence of the mother in the novel environment prevented the passive stage from occurring. Levels of passive responses in the presence of an unfamiliar adult female were generally intermediate to those in the other two test conditions; however, periadolescents housed only with a peer between weaning and testing exhibited the passive stage of responsiveness not only when alone but also when with the mother or an unfamiliar female. The findings indicate that the passive responses can occur in periadolescent guinea pigs and that the test conditions under which they occur depend upon the periadolescents’ social housing conditions prior to testing. Further, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that responses during the second stage constitute “stress-induced sickness behaviors.” © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 46: 86–96, 2005.



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