Mateo, J.M. & Holmes, W.G. 2004. Cross-fostering as a means to study kin recognition. Animal Behaviour, 68, 1451-1459.
Cross-fostering techniques in which infants are taken from their genetic parents and reared by unrelated foster parents have been widely used in behavioural research to investigate several developmental questions. Here we address some of the central issues involved in using cross-fostering to study kin recognition where it has been applied frequently. We do so by first outlining general principles of recognition mechanisms, and then presenting three different cross-fostering designs that allow researchers to examine specific details of the development of recognition abilities. Our discussion focuses on kin recognition, although the transfer of young between litters, broods or clutches is a commonly-used tool for other behavioural questions, including vocal development in primates and birds, the effects of experience and genes on parenting or aggression, the influence of parents and offspring on provisioning rates, sexual imprinting and recognition of parasitic eggs by avian hosts.