Influence of dominance on the development of play fighting in pairs of male Syrian golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)

In the highly social rat, male juvenile and adult subordinates initiate more playful contacts with dominant pairmates than vice versa. This study examined the effect of dominance on playful contacts in the relatively asocial golden hamster. Pairs of male hamsters were reared together from weaning, and their play was filmed in the juvenile (28?36 days) and the young adult (60?70 days) stages of development. By the adult stage, it became clear that one pairmate was dominant over the other. The dominant pairmate launched all aggressive attacks (i. e., bites to the lower flanks and rump), and the subordinate pairmate performed all the submissive gesturing (e. g., tail up submissive posture). Playful contact, which in this species involves gentle nibbling of the posterior cheeks, was more frequently launched by the dominant than by the subordinate. This was not only true at the adult stage, but also at the juvenile stage, before dominance?subordination relationships were sharply polarized. Therefore, it would appear that in the relatively asocial hamster, the subordinates tend to avoid playful contact with dominants. This is markedly different to rats, where the subordinates actively seek out and engage dominants in play. This contrast further supports our hypothesis that subordinate male rats use play as a means of maintaining familiarity with dominants. © 1993 Wiley?Liss, Inc. Copyright © 1993 Wiley?Liss, Inc., A Wiley Company

In the highly social rat, male juvenile and adult subordinates initiate more playful contacts with dominant pairmates than vice versa. This study examined the effect of dominance on playful contacts in the relatively asocial golden hamster. Pairs of male hamsters were reared together from weaning, and their play was filmed in the juvenile (28?36 days) and the young adult (60?70 days) stages of development. By the adult stage, it became clear that one pairmate was dominant over the other. The dominant pairmate launched all aggressive attacks (i. e., bites to the lower flanks and rump), and the subordinate pairmate performed all the submissive gesturing (e. g., tail up submissive posture). Playful contact, which in this species involves gentle nibbling of the posterior cheeks, was more frequently launched by the dominant than by the subordinate. This was not only true at the adult stage, but also at the juvenile stage, before dominance?subordination relationships were sharply polarized. Therefore, it would appear that in the relatively asocial hamster, the subordinates tend to avoid playful contact with dominants. This is markedly different to rats, where the subordinates actively seek out and engage dominants in play. This contrast further supports our hypothesis that subordinate male rats use play as a means of maintaining familiarity with dominants. © 1993 Wiley?Liss, Inc. Copyright © 1993 Wiley?Liss, Inc., A Wiley Company

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