What determines whether a female will approach or avoid a pup? Given that rats are predominantly olfactory animals, it's a reasonable bet that she responds to the odor of pups. Surprisingly, lesions of the olfactory system actually facilitate the onset of maternal behavior in virgin female rats. Presumably this is because females find pup odors aversive, so that reducing olfactory processing facilitates maternal approach, permitting ventral and oral-buccal stimulation to stimulate maternal responsiveness. In primates, visual and auditory cues (i.e., cries) may be more important than olfactory cues for stimulating maternal care.
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