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Review

Allonursing in Wild and Farm Animals: Biological and Physiological Foundations and Explanatory Hypotheses

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Neurophysiology, Behavior and Animal Welfare Assessment, DPAA, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco, Mexico City 04960, Mexico
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Animal Behaviour and Welfare Department, IRSEA (Research Institute in Semiochemistry and Applied Ethology), Quartier Salignan, 84400 Apt, France
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Departamento de Biociencias Veterinarias, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de la República, Montevideo 11600, Uruguay
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Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough, Co Down BT 26 6DR, Northern Ireland, UK
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Facultad de Estudios Superiores Cuautitlán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuautitlán Izcalli 54714, Mexico
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Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca 62209, Mexico
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Cecilie Marie Mejdell
Animals 2021, 11(11), 3092; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11113092
Received: 14 September 2021 / Revised: 23 October 2021 / Accepted: 27 October 2021 / Published: 29 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Perinatology: Behavior and Health of the Dam and Her Offspring)
Allonursing and allosuckling are behaviors displayed by some females, characterized by nursing and feeding non-filial offspring. Although both are costly behaviors, this type of communal parenting is widespread in various species; however, not all animals display this behavior, and even among species, some differences can be observed. This review aims to analyze the biological and physiological foundations of allonursing and allosuckling in wild and farm animals. It also summarizes some current hypotheses to explain these behaviors as a strategic approach for the mother or the offspring, describing the individual and collective advantages and disadvantages and their implications on an animal.
The dams of gregarious animals must develop a close bond with their newborns to provide them with maternal care, including protection against predators, immunological transference, and nutrition. Even though lactation demands high energy expenditures, behaviors known as allonursing (the nursing of non-descendant infants) and allosuckling (suckling from any female other than the mother) have been reported in various species of wild or domestic, and terrestrial or aquatic animals. These behaviors seem to be elements of a multifactorial strategy, since reports suggest that they depend on the following: species, living conditions, social stability, and kinship relations, among other group factors. Despite their potential benefits, allonursing and allosuckling can place the health and welfare of both non-filial dams and alien offspring at risk, as it augments the probability of pathogen transmission. This review aims to analyze the biological and physiological foundations and bioenergetic costs of these behaviors, analyzing the individual and collective advantages and disadvantages for the dams’ own offspring(s) and alien neonate(s). We also include information on the animal species in which these behaviors occur and their implications on animal welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal perinatology; non-offspring nursing; fostering; mismothering; lactation animal perinatology; non-offspring nursing; fostering; mismothering; lactation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Mota-Rojas, D.; Marcet-Rius, M.; Freitas-de-Melo, A.; Muns, R.; Mora-Medina, P.; Domínguez-Oliva, A.; Orihuela, A. Allonursing in Wild and Farm Animals: Biological and Physiological Foundations and Explanatory Hypotheses. Animals 2021, 11, 3092. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11113092

AMA Style

Mota-Rojas D, Marcet-Rius M, Freitas-de-Melo A, Muns R, Mora-Medina P, Domínguez-Oliva A, Orihuela A. Allonursing in Wild and Farm Animals: Biological and Physiological Foundations and Explanatory Hypotheses. Animals. 2021; 11(11):3092. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11113092

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mota-Rojas, Daniel, Míriam Marcet-Rius, Aline Freitas-de-Melo, Ramon Muns, Patricia Mora-Medina, Adriana Domínguez-Oliva, and Agustín Orihuela. 2021. "Allonursing in Wild and Farm Animals: Biological and Physiological Foundations and Explanatory Hypotheses" Animals 11, no. 11: 3092. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11113092

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