Nutritional stress can have lasting impacts on the development of traits involved in vocal production. Cross-fostering experiments are often used to examine the propensity for vocal learning in a variety of taxa, but few studies assess the influence of malnourishment that can occur as a byproduct of this technique. In this study, we reciprocally cross-fostered sister taxa of voluble grasshopper mice (genus Onychomys) to explore their propensity for vocal learning. Vocalizations of Onychomys leucogaster did not differ between control and cross-fostered animals, but cross-fostered Onychomys arenicola produced vocalizations that were higher in frequency in a direction away from tutors. These same animals exhibited a transient reduction in body mass early in development, indicative of malnutrition. Our findings simultaneously refute vocal learning and support the developmental stress hypothesis to highlight the importance of early ontogeny on the production of vocalizations later in life.
- Developmental stress
- Vocal production mechanism
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience