Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Prenatal stress accelerates growth and inhibits the motoric development of unborn monkeys

21.09.2016

For the first time, behavioral ecologists studied the impact of maternal stress on primate infants in the wild.

At their field station in Thailand, researchers of the German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research (DPZ) and the University of Göttingen followed non-human primate mothers through their gestation and their infants through the first one and a half years of their lives.


An infant Assamese macaque being nursed in the hill evergreen forest of Thailand. Photo: Andreas Berghänel

Foto: Andreas Berghänel

The offspring of mothers that were stressed from food shortages grew faster than their peers but paid for that with slower motoric development and probably also a weakened immune system. This is the first study on the effects of prenatal stress in long-lived mammals in their natural habitat. The results support the theory that stressed mothers change their unborn’s pace of life (Proceedings of the Royal Society B 20161304).

It is a known fact that maternal stress often has a long-term impact on the unborn child.
Yet, physicians and biologists still discuss as to whether these maternal influences should generally be regarded as pathological or as to whether it is an evolved adaptative mechanism. Are mothers able to program their unborn offspring to increase its evolutionary fitness?

This hypothesis is supported by studies on short-lived mammals such as rats, since the environmental conditions during gestation are very similar to those the offspring will breed in a few month later. The new study suggests that adaptive prenatal stress effects can also occur in long-lived monkeys.

The physiological stress following natural food shortages seemed to have cause accelerated growth among young macaques as evident from the analysis of data on fruit availability in the most important tree species, hormone levels in the feces of mothers and growth curves derived from hundreds of photos of Assamese macaque infants in the hill evergreen forest of northeastern Thailand.

In mammals growth is usually closely related to important developmental milestones. The first author of the study, Andreas Berghänel, explains, "A shortened life expectancy caused by prenatal development disturbances here leads to an accelerated pace of life. The offspring grows faster and reaches sexually maturity quicker allowing for earlier and faster reproduction.”

Even in humans, early life adversities are related to earlier sexual maturity. Nevertheless, Julia Ostner, the head of the field project, is surprised, "The faster pace of life is astounding. We expected that the poor conditions experienced in the womb would have only negative consequences for the young during the gestation period."

And indeed, accelerated growth is only one of the consequences of reduced food availability and an increased glucocorticoid level. Offspring exposed to these conditions showed delayed motoric development and took longer to learn how to dangle from a branch on one leg, to jump backwards or to leap at least five meters far in the canopy of the forest. When an outbreak of conjunctivitis occurred, the external signs were noticed in the infant the longer, the more stress their mothers experienced during gestation. Thus, also the immune system seems to be affected.

It remains unclear whether the prenatal stress also affected the cognitive development of the offspring. Further investigations are needed to determine whether adverse prenatal conditions increase reproductive rates of macaques and reduce their longevity, as predicted by the hypothesis of the internal adaptive response.

Original Publication:

Andreas Berghänel, Michael Heistermann, Oliver Schülke and Julia Ostner (2016): Prenatal stress effects in a wild, long-lived primate: predictive adaptive responses in an unpredictable environment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 20161304.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.1304

Contact and notes for editors:

Andreas Berghänel
Tel: +49 176 2112 3898
E-mail: abergha@gwdg.de

Luzie Almenräder (Communication)
Tel: +49 551 3851-424
E-mail: lalmenraeder@dpz.eu

Printable pictures are available in our Media library. We kindly request a specimen copy in case of publication.

The German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research conducts biological and biomedical research on and with primates in the fields of infection research, neuroscience and primate biology. The DPZ maintains four field stations in the tropics and is the reference and service center for all aspects of primate research. The DPZ is one of 88 research and infrastructure facilities of the Leibniz Association.

Dr. Susanne Diederich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://dpz.eu/

Further reports about: DPZ Primatenforschung Primatenzentrum food shortages immune system macaques monkeys

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>