Oestrous female house mice discriminate dominant from subordinate males and sons of dominant from sons of subordinate males by odour cues


Drickamer, L.C.

Animal Behaviour 43(5): 868-870

1992


Anim.
Behay.,
1992,
43,
868-870
Oestrous
female
house
mice
discriminate
dominant
from
subordinate
males
and
sons
of
dominant
from
sons
of
subordinate
males
by
odour
cues
LEE
C.
DRICKAMER
Department
of'
Zoology,
Southern
Illinois
University,
Carbondale,
IL
62901,
U.S.A.
(
Received
14
January
1991;
initial
acceptance
26
February
1991;
final
acceptance
11
August
1991;
MS.
number:
sc-626
)
Sexual
selection
and
mate
choice
have
been
the
sub-
ject
of
extended
theoretical
debate
(Kodric-Brown
&
Brown
1984;
Arnold
1987;
Hoelzer
1989)
and
experimental
studies
on
many
organisms,
including
fish
(e.g.
Grant
&
Colgan
1981),
birds
(e.g.
Burley
1986)
and
mammals
(e.g.
Clutton-Brock
et
al.
1982).
In
house
mice,
Mus
domesticus,
a
variety
of
factors
may
affect
mate
selection
and
preference,
including
the
H-2
locus,
t-allele
and
other
genetic
factors
(Yanai
&
McClearn
1973;
Yamazaki
et
al.
1976;
Lenington
1983),
and
familiarity,
kinship
and
early
experience
(D'Udine
&
Alleva
1983;
Hayashi
&
Kimura
1983).
These
and
other
aspects
of
social
relations
and
reproduction
in
mice
are
mediated,
in
part,
by
urinary
olfactory
cues
(Bronson
1979;
Drickamer
1986;
Hurst
1989).
Recently,
Hurst
(1990)
reported
that
female
house
mice
are
attracted
to
urine
marks
from
resident
dominant
males,
but
avoid
marks
from
neighbouring
and
unfamiliar
dominant
males.
Daughters
exhibited
somewhat
opposite
reactions,
showing
less
interest
in
urine
marks
from
domi-
nant
resident
males,
but
spending
considerable
time
in
neighbouring
territories.
Lenington
(1983)
reported
that
dominant
males
attacked
oestrous
females
more
often
than
subordinate
males
attacked
oestrous
females
regardless
of
the
male's
t-allele
genotype.
Given
this
background,
I
tested
two
questions.
(1)
Do
oestrous
female
mice
exhibit
any
preference
between
soiled
bedding
odour
cues
from
dominant
versus
subordinate
males?
(2)
Do
female
mice
exhibit
any
preference
between
soiled
bedding
odour
cues
from
sons
of
dominant
versus
sons
of
subordinate
males.
I
used
second
generation
laboratory
animals
bred
from
wild
house
mice
captured
near
Simsbury,
Connecticut,
and
Williamstown,
Massachusetts.
They
were
maintained
in
standard
polypropylene
cages
measuring
15
x
15
x
28
cm
and
were
housed
at
22
+
3°C
and
40
+
15%
relative
humidity,
with
fluorescent
lighting
on
from
0600
to
1800
hours.
For
experiment
I,
I
tested
24
pairs
of
unrelated
males,
120-140
days
old,
for
dominance,
using
attacks
and
chases
in
a
10-min
encounter,
in
a
40-
litre
(floor
area
=
30
x
50
cm)
terrarium;
there
were
clear
winners
and
losers
for
20
of
the
24
pairs.
There
was
no
significant
difference
in
the
mean
body
weight
for
winners
versus
losers
(t=
0.87,
cif=
38,
P>
0.20).
Winners
and
losers
were
placed
in
indi-
vidual
polypropylene
cages
containing
clean
wood
shavings
for
4
days.
It
should
be
noted
that
I
am
here
using
'dominant'
and
'subordinate'
based
on
a
single
encounter,
a
somewhat
different
usage
than
some
of
the
previous
literature;
this
is
for
con-
venience
only.
Forty
nulliparous
females,
120-160
days
old
and
with
no
prior
exposure
to
male
odours
since
weaning,
were
briefly
placed
individually
with
one
of
several
proven
stud
males,
which
had
no
prior
male—male
social
interactions
since
weaning,
for
10
min
to
determine
whether
the
male
would
mount
(Lenington
1983).
Females
that
exhibited
oestrous
behaviour
were
removed
and
used
im-
mediately
in
one
of
two
tests.
In
the
first
test,
I
placed
300
ml
of
soiled
bedding
from
a
dominant
male
on
one
side
of
a
centre
partition
(4
cm
high
and
extending
the
width
of
the
terrarium)
in
a
40-
litre
terrarium
and
300
ml
from
a
subordinate
male
on
the
other
side
(Drickamer
1989).
Females
were
introduced
directly
onto
the
partition.
The
time
that
the
oestrous
female
spent
on
each
half
of
the
terrarium
was
recorded
for
20
min.
In
the
second
test
I
used
a
Y-olfactometer
(Lennington
1983)
with
100
ml
of
soiled
bedding
from
dominant
and
subordinate
males
placed
in
the
two
stimulus
chambers.
Oestrous
females
were
tested
for
20
min;
times
spent
in
the
two
side
arms
leading
to
the
stimu-
lus
chambers
were
recorded.
One
test
provided
possible
vomeronasal
contact
with
the
stimulus,
whereas
the
other
provided
only
volatile
cues.
For
both
tests,
I
calculated
a
ratio
for
the
amount
of
time
spent
on
the
dominant
male
side
divided
by
the
amount
of
time
spent
on
the
subordinate
male
side.
0003-3472/92/050868
+
03
$03.00/0
©
1992
The
Association
for
the
Study
of
Animal
Behaviour
868
Short
Communications
869
Because
these
ratios
were
skewed,
the
data
were
subjected
to
a
natural
logarithm
transformation.
I
used
t-tests
(Sokal
&
Rohlf
1981)
with
a
population
value
of
0
(ln
(1)
=
0,
the
ratio
that
would
occur
if
the
time
spent
on
the
two
sides
were
equal),
to
assess
statistical
significance.
In
both
the
bedding
(1=
4.39,
df=
19,
P<0.001)
and
olfactometer
(t=
5.00,
df=
19,
P
<0.001)
tests,
oestrous
females
preferred
cues
from
dominant
males.
For
the
bedding
test
the
mean
ln
ratio
(
+
sE)
was
0.83
+
0.13
and
in
the
olfactometer
the
mean
ratio
was
0-65
+
0.13.
For
experiment
II,
the
40
males
from
experiment
I
were
mated
with
40
unrelated
nulliparous
females,
120-140
days
old;
stud
males
were
kept
with
the
females
until
4
days
after
the
discovery
of
a
vaginal
plug
at
which
time
the
pregnant
females
were
placed
in
clean
cages.
Male
pups
from
these
litters
were
weaned
at
25
days
of
age
and
housed
as
litter-
mate
groups
(2-4
per
cage)
until
50
days
of
age.
One
male
from
each
litter,
selected
at
random
using
a
random-number
table,
was
then
housed
alone
un-
til
100-120
days
of
age.
Each
male
was
then
placed
in
a
clean
cage
containing
fresh
wood
shavings
for
4
days.
Shavings
from
sons
of
dominant
and
subordi-
nate
males
were
used
in
soiled
bedding
and
olfac-
tometer
tests
identical
to
those
in
experiment
I.
Sample
sizes
for
experiment
II
were
slightly
smaller
than
for
experiment
I
because
not
all
40
matings
produced
litters.
Since
37
of
40
matings
did
produce
litters,
I
conclude
that
there
was
no
effect
of
social
status
on
reproduction
in
this
experiment.
The
test
females
used
for
experiment
II
were
different
from
those
used
in
experiment
I.
Test
procedures
and
analyses
were
exactly
the
same
as
those
of
exper-
iment
I.
For
both
soiled
bedding
preference
(t=
2.74,
4f=
17,
P
<0.02)
and
olfactometer
(t=
3.44,
df=
18,
P
<0.01)
tests,
oestrous
females
preferred
cues
from
sons
of
dominant
males
over
those
from
sons
of
subordinates.
For
the
bedding
test
the
mean
ln
ratio
was
0.48
+
019
and
in
the
olfactometer
the
mean
ln
ratio
was
0.67
+
0.21.
Female
house
mice
prefer
odour
cues
from
domi-
nant
males
and
from
sons
of
dominant
males
over
cues
from
subordinates
and
sons
of
subordinates
and
they
can
make
their
selection
based
on
either
volatile
cues
alone
or
a
combination
of
volatile
and
non-volatile
cues.
The
preference
for
odour
cues
from
dominant
males
is
in
agreement
with
Hurst's
(1989)
findings
that
females
investigated
urine
from
unfamilar
adult
males
more
than
urine
from
unfamiliar
subadult
males
under
conditions
where
they
were
not
exposed
to
attack
from
neighbouring
males.
This
finding
is
also
in
accord
with
earlier
investigations
of
female
brown
lemmings,
Dicrost-
onyx
groenlandicus,
in
which
oestrous
females
selected
the
odour
of
dominant
males
over
that
from
subordinates
and
also
selected
the
odour
from
males
that
had
not
yet
been
paired
with
other
males
but
that
emerged
as
victors
when
pairing
occurred
(Huck
et
al.
1981).
The
consequences
of
this
pref-
erence
in
female
house
mice
for
dominant
males
could
include
fitness
benefits
for
the
female
if
the
result
involved
more
successful
matings,
although
the
evolutionary
consequences
of
the
female's
preferences
remain
to
be
tested.
The
preference
for
sons
of
dominant
males
is
perhaps
unexpected
and
may
be
related
to
the
findings
for
Peromyscus
maniculatus
reported
by
Dewsbury
(1990);
sons
of
dominant
males
often
become
dominant
them-
selves.
That
is,
there
may
be
a
genetic
basis
for
the
dominance
in
these
rodents
that
is
reflected
both
in
aggressive
behaviour
and
with
regard
to
communi-
cation
via
odours
that
are
released
in
urine.
The
aforementioned
work
by
Huck
et
al.
(1981)
also
lends
support
to
this
conclusion.
I
did
not
test
my
mice
for
the
t-allele
and
thus
it
is
impossible
to
relate
these
findings
directly
to
the
report
by
Lenington
(1983)
that
dominant
males
behaved
differently
towards
oestrous
females
than
did
subordinates.
I
thank
Douglas
Meikle
for
helping
to
collect
wild
house
mice.
This
research
was
supported
in
part
by
NSF
Grant
No.
BNS-8796315.
Robert
Wathen
kindly
commented
upon
an
earlier
version
of
the
manuscript.
I
thank
Dr
Francine
M.
Rozenfeld
and
an
anonymous
reviewer
for
helpful
comments
on
the
manuscript.
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