During an agonistic encounter test, dominant male greater long-tailed hamsters (Tscheskia triton) initiated attacks sooner and displayed higher levels of aggression and flank marking behavior than their subordinate counterparts. Accordingly, subordinate males exhibited more defensive behavior than dominant ones. Specific patterns of neuronal activation, measured by Fos-immunoreactive staining (Fos-ir), were found in the hamster brain following agonistic interactions. Increased Fos-ir was observed in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), and medial (MeA) and anterior cortical (ACo) nuclei of the amygdala (AMYG) in both dominant and subordinate males. In contrast, dominant males had significantly higher Fos-ir densities in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) than subordinate males, whereas subordinate males expressed higher densities of Fos-ir in the anterior hypothalamus (AH) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA). Additionally, Fos-ir levels in the MPOA were significantly correlated with aggression and Fos-ir levels in the AH and CeA were correlated with defensive behavior. Together, our data indicate distinct patterns of neuronal activation associated with agonistic encounters in a behavior-specific manner in male greater long-tailed hamsters.
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