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Publication Summary and Abstract

Wilson, S. P. (2017), Modelling the emergence of rodent filial huddling from physiological huddling, Royal Society Open Science, 4, 170885.

Huddling behaviour in neonatal rodents reduces the metabolic costs of physiological thermoregulation. However, animals continue to huddle into adulthood, at ambient temperatures where they are able to sustain a basal metabolism in isolation from the huddle. This 'filial huddling' in older animals is known to be guided by olfactory rather than thermal cues. The present study aimed to test whether thermally rewarding contacts between young mice, experienced when thermogenesis in brown adipose fat tissue (BAT) is highest, could give rise to olfactory preferences that persist as filial huddling interactions in adults. To this end, a simple model was constructed to fit existing data on the development of mouse thermal physiology and behaviour. The form of the model that emerged yields a remarkable explanation for filial huddling; associative learning maintains huddling into adulthood via processes that reduce thermodynamic entropy from BAT-metabolism and increase information about social ordering amongst littermates.
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