BIOREC PhD Project 7: Early life phase influences on reproductive and challenge performance in mammals: Effects of prenatal stress on later reproductive and challenge performance of guinea pigs (Cavia aperea f.porcellus)

PhD student: Hanna SCHÖPPER 1; Wildlife and Ecology 2

Supervisors: Susanne HUBER 3, Rupert PALME 4

Abstract: The investigation of the effects of early life factors on later life events is an emerging field of biological and medical research. There is accumulating evidence that environmental and social conditions experienced during foetal and neonatal life may influence early development with potential long-term consequences for a variety of parameters such as growth, reproduction, susceptibility to diseases, and survival. Recent human studies on birth season effects on reproductive output raised the assumption that the environmental conditions experienced during early life may have long-term consequences for later reproductive performance. The effects of early environmental conditions on later stress response have not been examined yet although several studies show that early social experience may explain individual differences of stress physiology. Aim of the project is to investigate whether environmental and maternal conditions during early development, including both pre- and postnatal environmental and maternal challenges, may exert long-term effects on i) later stress response, and ii) later reproduction in guinea pigs, and iii) whether there are any interactions between both putative effects, by examining the effects of challenges during the pre- and postnatal period on later stress responsiveness and reproductive function, respectively. The guinea pig will be used as model species as, owing to similarities between the guinea pig and human ovarian cycle, it is a suitable model for an experimental examination of effects of early life factors on later reproductive capacity found in humans.


Hanna SCHÖPPER, Mag. vet. med.

Research Institute for Wildlife and Ecology

Working hypothesis: Environmental and maternal conditions during the early pre- and postnatal development of the progeny affect its later stress responsiveness and reproductive function in Guinea Pigs.