The organization and activation of maternal care are known to be highly regulated by hormones and there is growing evidence that expression of paternal care is also related to endocrine substrates. We examined the relationship between paternal behavior and steroid hormones in marmoset fathers (Callithrix geoffroyi) and evaluated whether hormone-paternal behavior relationships were altered by previous offspring-care experience in males. Based on previous findings, we predicted that testosterone, estradiol, and cortisol would decrease following the birth of offspring and would be lowest during the period of maximal infant carrying. Furthermore, we predicted that post-partum changes in carrying effort and hormone levels would be influenced by the level of offspring-care experience. Carrying effort and other paternal care behaviors underwent temporal changes over the post-partum period, but these patterns were not related to variation in hormone concentrations over the same period. There was a limited effect of offspring-care experience on hormone concentrations, but experience was found to play a role in the expression of paternal care, with experienced fathers engaging in significantly more infant allogrooming than inexperienced fathers. Furthermore, inexperienced fathers increased the frequency of food sharing in response to infant begging across the post-partum period, while experienced fathers displayed consistently low levels. We posit that a combination of experiential factors and an increased role for alloparents in offspring-care led to these changes. However, it appears that hormonal changes may not influence paternal responsiveness in white-faced marmoset fathers and that hormone-paternal behavior relationships are not critically dependent on a male's previous offspring-care experience.
- Offspring-care experience
- Paternal care
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience