Female mice prefer unfamiliar male songs

February 5, 2014
Female and male mouse. Credit: Akari Asaba

Female mice prefer songs of mice that are different from their parents when selecting a mate, according to a study published February 5, 2014 in PLOS ONE by Akari Asaba from the Azabu University, Japan, and colleagues. Furthermore, these preferences may be shaped by early social experiences with their fathers.

Many animals can learn the characteristics of a desirable mate when they are young, and this includes the ability to recognize and avoid mating with close relatives. Male mice emit ultrasonic vocalizations, or songs, when they encounter females, and the scientists in this study investigated whether can learn, remember, and prefer specific male song characteristics. Female mice were raised with their , a different father, or no father. Researchers then recorded songs from 4 male mice, one of which was a close relative. The female mouse was placed in a cage with compartments containing the male songs, as well as their sexual scents, and scientists recorded the time each female searched before making a selection.

The authors found that female mice displayed an innate preference for male songs from different families, and this preference was influenced by the female's reproductive cycle and scent-based sexual cues from the male. Female mice raised by non-biological also preferred songs from other families, and no preference occurred when there was no father; these results indicate a possible learned behavior through exposure to the father's song. This is one of the first studies in mammals to demonstrate that male songs may contribute to kin recognition and by females in order to avoid inbreeding.

Female mice prefer songs of mice that are different from their parents when selecting a mate. Credit: Akari Asaba

Explore further: Serotonin plays active role in the sexual preference of mice

More information: Asaba A, Okabe S, Nagasawa M, Kato M, Koshida N, et al. (2014) Developmental Social Environment Imprints Female Preference for Male Song in Mice. PLoS ONE 9(2): e87186. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087186

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5 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2014
I struggle to imagine how any animal can make an assessment of consanguinity. Do their minds really make a connection between mating, birth and parenthood? I suggest that a female of any species selecting a mate because she thinks he will make better offspring is beyond her ken. Maybe she just sees the novelty in the stranger male mouse having a different song.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2014
You are probably correct; except that this is something she feels. As David Rothenberg (the author of 'The survival of the beautiful') has also suggested: they sing because they like it. To ascribe them any ability to make intellectual considerations concerning offspring etc. is obviously an antropomorphization. The fascination for new melodic twists, however - if they are not too radical, that is - the mice might well share with us. The evolutionary benefits of singing are obvious in this case, which might serve as a partial explanation why it is so deeply ingrained already in mice.

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