Variability of maternal care and evidence of maternal styles
To evaluate the ways mothers' behaviour influences their offspring's behavioural development, we focus on the individual variability of quail's maternal behaviour.
We monitor the ontogeny of maternal behaviour at the individual level by studying the effects of variation factors that include factors related to experience (during early life or during adulthood) and of intrinsic factors (genotype, temperament, age…) on the maternal responses of females when adult.
We also study the interindividual variability of maternal care. As individual differences are consistent over several breeding periods we could evidence, for the first time, birds' maternal styles that present strong similarities with the maternal styles of mammalian species.
By integrating robots into groups of young birds, we aim to control precisely the behaviour of one of the partners involved in familial relationships.
We seek to establish a relationship between an animal and the robot beyond social interactions, in order to be able to manipulate the behavioural characteristics of the robot to detect mechanisms influencing the development of young people. Our research focuses in particular on the development of the spatial behavior of young animals.
- Mothers are more or less maternal according to their individual behavioural traits and experience: Fearful females or non-brooded females are the most abusive, and older females or those who have been mothered are less rejective and less abusive.
- Individual differences of quail's maternal behaviour remain consistent over several breeding periods. We evidence two main dimensions of quail's maternal styles discriminating between aggressive mothers and rejecting mothers.
- An autonomous robot influences the spatial behaviour development of quail. Quail experiencing the presence of a mobile robot during their first 10 days of life subsequently solve a spatial detour task more easily than quail reared with a static robot (de Margerie et al. 2011). Similar spatial skill differences have been evidenced between brooded and non-brooded quail (de Margerie et al. 2013).
- The path of free-ranging animals can be tracked in 3 dimensions, with a better precision than when using GPS, and without the need to tag animals (de Margerie et al. 2015). This optical tracking method, developed in our laboratory and coined RSV (Rotational Stereo Videography), finds applications in many fields of biology (behaviour, ecology, biomechanics).