The response of newly born mice to odors of murine colostrum and milk: unconditionally attractive, conditionally discriminated.Dev Psychobiol. 2014 Sep; 56(6):1365-76.DP
It is a general rule that milk conveys chemosensory cues that are attractive to mammalian neonates. This study investigated whether compositional fluctuations in milk along lactation induce variations in newborn mouse pups' (Mus musculus, strain BALB/c) attraction to milk odor. Pups differing in suckling experience were exposed to the odor of milk sampled from females varying in lactational stage. Immediately after birth, suckling-inexperienced (P0) and suckling-experienced (P0suck) pups were assayed in a series of paired-choice tests contrasting murine milk [of lactation days 0, 3, 15 (abridged L0, L3, L15, respectively)] and a blank (water) to evaluate olfactory detection and attraction of milk odor. Preference tests further paired these milk two-by-two to assess their relative attraction. Results showed first that P0 and P0suck pups detect and positively orient to any milk odor. When L0 is presented against L15 milk, P0 pups orient for a similar duration towards these odor stimuli, whereas P0suck pups spend more time toward the odor of L0 than of L15 milk. Finally, P0suck pups orient similarly to odors of L0 milk collected before/after the first suckling episode (L0 and L0suck , respectively), but the odor of L0 milk was more attractive than that of L3 milk. Thus, mouse pups' positive orientation toward the odors of murine colostrum (assumed to correspond to L0/L0suck milk) and later-lactation milk appears unconditional of previous suckling experience, whereas their ability to discriminate or display preference between milk differing in lactation stage appears conditional on postnatal exposure effects.