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Keywords:

  • rodent development;
  • nursing;
  • foraging

Abstract

This study describes the first systematic observations of maternal behavior and pup development of captive Key Largo woodrats (Neotoma floridana smalli) during the first 30 days of life. Data were collected on six litters of pups born to four dams between December 2006 and July 2007. Gestations for the six litters averaged 38 days and all dams exhibited adequate maternal care postpartum. Key Largo woodrat maternal and pup behavior was generally consistent with behavior observed in other woodrat species. We observed greater pup independence from the dam and a marked change in social interactions between days 13–22. No sex differences in pup development or maternal care were observed. Activity budgets were consistent across dams and across days within the observation period. Although dams spent much of their time inactive with pups attached to their teats, the average percent of intervals with at least one pup observed attached decreased steadily during the 30-day observation period. Attachment of pups to the dams' teats did not interfere with dams' ability to forage. Feeding with pups attached and feeding following active detachment of pups were both common. Dams were observed to actively detach pups by performing a circular turning motion. This information has application for the future management of this endangered species in captivity and in the wild. Zoo Biol 27:394–405, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.