School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Social behavior is critical for relationship formation and is influenced by myriad environmental and individual factors. Basic and preclinical research typically relies on rodent models to identify the mechanisms that underlie behavior; however, it is important to use non-rodent models as well. A major objective of the present study was to test the hypothesis that biological sex and social experience modulate the expression of social behavior in the adult gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica), a non-traditional model. We also investigated the non-associative learning abilities of these animals. Following a period of social isolation, animals of both sexes were paired with a non-familiar, same-sex partner for 10 minutes on three different occasions, with 24-hour inter-trial intervals. We are the first research group to find significant sex differences in submissive and nonsocial behaviors in Monodelphis. Females displayed significantly higher durations of nonsocial behavior that increased over trials. Males were more aggressive; their latencies to the first attack and submissive behavior decreased over trials whereas these latencies increased for females; males’ duration of submissive behavior increased over trials whereas it decreased for females. A different group of subjects habituated in response to repeated presentations to neutral odors and dishabituated in response to novel odors. In addition, both males and females demonstrated the ability to form social memories in a standard individual (social) recognition test. Our results contribute to the characterization of this marsupial species, an important first step in developing it as a model of complex social behaviors.


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Publication Title

Physiol Behav



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Mentor/PI Department

Office of Human Genetics



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