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Vomeronasal organ lesion disrupts social odor recognition, behaviors and fitness in golden hamsters

Authors

  • Yingjuan LIU,

    1. State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents in Agriculture, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
    2. Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
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  • Jinhua ZHANG,

    1. State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents in Agriculture, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • Dingzhen LIU,

    1. Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
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  • Jianxu ZHANG

    Corresponding author
    1. State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents in Agriculture, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
    • Correspondence: Jianxu Zhang, State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents in Agriculture, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1 Beichen West Rd, Chaoyang, Beijing 100101, China. Email: zhangjx@ioz.ac.cn

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Abstract

Most studies support the viewpoint that the vomeronasal organ has a profound effect on conspecific odor recognition, scent marking and mating behavior in the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). However, the role of the vomeronasal organ in social odor recognition, social interaction and fitness is not well understood. Therefore, we conducted a series of behavioral and physiological tests to examine the referred points in golden hamster. We found that male hamsters with vomeronasal organ lesion showed no preference between a predator odor (the anal gland secretion of the Siberian weasels (Mustela sibirica) and putative female pheromone components (myristic acid and palmitic acid), but were still able to discriminate between these 2 kinds of odors. In behavioral tests of anxiety, we found that vomeronasal organ removal causes female hamsters to spend much less time in center grids and to cross fewer center grids and males to make fewer crossings between light and dark boxes than sham-operated controls. This indicates that a chronic vomeronasal organ lesion induced anxious responses in females. In aggressive behavioral tests, we found that a chronic vomeronasal organ lesion decreased agonistic behavior in female hamsters but not in males. The pup growth and litter size show no differences between the 2 groups. All together, our data suggested that vomeronasal organ ablation disrupted the olfactory recognition of social chemosignals in males, and induced anxiety-like and aggressive behavior changes in females. However, a vomeronasal organ lesion did not affect the reproductive capacity and fitness of hamsters. Our studies may have important implications concerning the role of the vomeronasal organ in golden hamsters and also in rodents.

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