At temperate latitudes, mammals and birds use changes in day length to time their reproductive activities to coincide with seasonal fluctuations in the environment. Close to the equator, however, conditions permissive of breeding do not track changes in day length as well, so other cues may be more important than photoperiod. In a variety of vertebrates, social interactions regulate breeding condition. We hypothesized that individuals of different species of Peromyscus mice found closer to the equator would respond more strongly to housing with an opposite sex conspecific than they would to photoperiod. To test this hypothesis, we compared the effects of long and short day lengths versus 8 days of pair housing with a female on reproductive tissue weights and testosterone (T) concentrations in five species of Peromyscus (P. aztecus, P. eremicus, P. maniculatus, P. melanophrys, and P. polionotus). After 13 weeks of short days (8L:16D), P. maniculatus, P. melanophrys, and P. polionotus significantly reduced relative testes mass compared to long day (16L:8D) housed animals. Social housing, however, had no effect on tissue weights in any species. However, male P. polionotus paired with females for 8 days increased T concentrations compared to single-housed males, whereas paired P. maniculatus reduced T. These data suggest that mechanisms of photoperiodic and social regulation of reproductive function are mediated by different physiological mechanisms among closely-related species and that both phylogeny and environmental factors contribute to patterns of reproductive plasticity.
- Social experience
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