• individual differences;
  • ontogeny;
  • littermates;
  • European rabbit;
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus;
  • laboratory rat;
  • Rattus norvegicus;
  • domestic cat;
  • Felis silvestris catus;
  • laboratory mouse;
  • Mus musculus


Although most mammals grow up in the company of same or different age sibs (or half sibs), surprisingly little attention has been given to how relations among them might influence the development of individual differences in morphology, physiology, and behavior. Here we review evidence from our work on domestic and wild European rabbits, and more recently on laboratory rats, mice, and domestic cats, supporting the proposition that in mammals early sibling relations contribute to the development of individual differences in these three domains and thereby to long-term behavioral differences of the kind we might consider part of an animal's behavioral style or personality. First we report a consistent and marked negative relation between litter size and individuals' body mass at birth and weaning, as well as marked within-litter differences in prenatal body mass and placental efficiency. We then report individual differences in preweaning behaviors associated with these morphological variables such as position occupied in the litter huddle and development of motor ability, as well as physiological differences in thermoregulation, immune parameters, and endocrine indicators of stress. Finally, we report first evidence from wild rabbits that early relations among littermates may have long-term consequences for individual differences in behavioral style. We conclude that in mammals, individual differences in early growth, physiology and behavior potentially important for the development of animal personality, are shaped to an appreciable extent by early sibling relations and that this little-researched field deserves closer attention. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 53:564–574, 2011.