Fighting During Suckling: Is it Really an Epiphenomenon?
Version of Record online: 10 MAY 2014
© 2014 Blackwell Verlag GmbH
Volume 120, Issue 7, pages 627–632, July 2014
How to Cite
Skok, J., Škorjanc, D. (2014), Fighting During Suckling: Is it Really an Epiphenomenon?. Ethology, 120: 627–632. doi: 10.1111/eth.12251
- Issue online: 2 JUN 2014
- Version of Record online: 10 MAY 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 19 APR 2014
- Manuscript Revised: 4 MAR 2014
- Manuscript Received: 4 JAN 2014
- agonistic behaviour;
- adaptive behaviour;
Suckling by piglets and kittens is accompanied by intense fighting among littermates. There are strong arguments that support the fighting for teats as an epiphenomenon, such as there being a sufficient number of mammary glands (teats) that are of equal quality for littermates, as suggested by Hudson and Distel (Ethology, 119, 2013, 353). However, this article presents a possible adaptive explanation for fighting during suckling. To substantiate the adaptive function of suckling fights, the disposability and limitations of colostrum are first considered. Other aspects are also discussed, such as the potential role of social thermoregulation, the stimulation of mammary glands (massage) and milk composition. Adaptive explanations for the absence/presence and intensity of suckling fights across species consider differences in the colostrum and mature milk composition, mechanisms of transferring immunoglobulin that supply passive immunity to neonates, strategies used to compete for teats and litter size. However, agonistic behaviours in the context of suckling should not be simply categorised as an epiphenomenon.