Link to bioRxiv paper:
Authors: Monari, P. K., Rieger, N. S., Hartfield, K., Schefelker, J., Marler, C. A.
Social context is critical in shaping behavioral responses to stimuli and can alter an individual's behavioral type, which would otherwise be fixed in social isolation. For monogamous biparental vertebrates, social context is critical as interactions are frequent and consistent, involving high interindividual dependence and cooperation that can lead to large fitness impacts. We demonstrate that in the strictly monogamous and highly territorial California mouse, individuals alter approach response to an aggressive conspecific playback stimulus, barks, to become more similar to their partner during early bonding prior to pup birth; an effect distinct from assortative mating. Additionally, sustained vocalizations, an affiliative ultrasonic vocalization when used between members of a pair, are associated with increased behavioral convergence following pair formation suggesting a vocal communication role in emergent pair behavior. We identified the neuropeptide oxytocin as sufficient to promote behavioral convergence in paired individuals who differed in their initial behavioral type, as characterized by approach behavior. Social context, specifically pair-bonding, appears vital for behavioral responses to aggressive signals. While non-bonded animals maintained stable responses, pair-bonding led to a pair emergent property, a convergence in behavioral responses. This convergence can be driven by oxytocin, revealing a significant expansion in oxytocin's effects on behavioral coordination.
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