Juvenile rats are known to show certain elements of maternal behavior. In this experiment, to investigate sex difference and postnatal change of retrieving and pup-cleaning (licking) behaviors in juvenile rats, these behaviors were recorded using new observation method at 20, 30 and 45 days of age in female and male Wistar rats. At 20 days of age, maternal behavior was observed in a common plastic observation cage (test A) and then test B was performed. In the test B, observation was carried out using a cage with a wooden box that was open on one side, helping the juveniles to establish a nest. As the results of day 20, most rats in all groups showed licking behavior in both the test A and B. The incidence of retrieving behavior increased from the test A to the test B with the box in both sexes, especially in males (p<0.01). The box is thought to play a facilitative role in induction of retrieving. Moreover, the incidence in males was higher than that in females in the test B (p<0.001). At 30 and 45 days of age, only a test B with box was performed. The incidences of licking and retrieving behaviors at 30 days of age were decreased significantly compared to those at 20 days of age in both sexes(p<0.001). Further decrease from 30 days to 45 days was observed. These results suggest that in juvenile rat, incidence of retrieving behavior in males is higher than that in females but there is no sex difference in incidence of licking behavior. Potency to show these behaviors decreases acutely before puberty in rats.
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