Maternal programming of social behaviour 

(Funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, Spain; PID2019-106032GB-I00. PI: Judith Morales)


The main goal of this project is to determine whether mothers adaptively program the social phenotype of their offspring, and to uncover the physiological mechanisms that are involved. To accomplish this goal, we have set three specific objectives, namely to test whether: 1) The social environment of the mother (social density) triggers differential allocation of hormones (androgens and glucocorticoids) and carotenoids to the eggs, 2) Mothers alter the social phenotype of their offspring via differential allocation of hormones (androgens and glucocorticoids) and carotenoids to the eggs, and 3) Mothers adjusting offspring social phenotype in function of their environment gain fitness benefits. We will address these objectives by performing field studies in our model system, the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus). We will experimentally manipulate the traits of interest (i.e., the social environment of the mother, and hormones and carotenoids in the eggs), which will allow to establish causal links between the maternal environment, the maternal cues and the resulting social phenotype of the offspring. Results will have relevant implications for our understanding of the evolution of sociality and cooperation. Moreover, our proposal tackles questions that make it appealing to the wider audience, as it addresses to what extent individuals are born to be social and which prenatal circumstances promote sociability.



Judith Morales (PI, National Museum of Natural Sciences, MNCN-CSIC, Spain)

José Javier Cuervo (MNCN-CSIC, Spain)

Juan Moreno (MNCN-CSIC, Spain)

Wendt Müller (Antwerp University, Belgium)

Jorge García-Campa (MNCN-CSIC, Spain)

Lucía Mayor-Fidalgo (MNCN-CSIC, Spain)

Alejandro García-Antón (MNCN-CSIC, Spain)