Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Female mice do not avoid mating with unhealthy males


A male’s attractiveness lies not only in his physical appearance. This is true for people as well as for animals. Scent plays an important role for many creatures when it comes to choosing a mating partner. Female mice show preferences for the scent of healthy males and yet surprisingly they choose unhealthy males just as often as mating partners. This was shown by scientists from the Vetmeduni Vienna. Mating choice is therefore not based solely on odor. The study was recently published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Female mice are attracted more strongly to the odour of healthy males than unhealthy males. This had already been shown in an earlier study by researchers from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the Vetmeduni Vienna. Now the team of behavioural scientists went one step further – and tested a common assumption that more attractive males have better mating success than other males.

Mating choice is not based solely on odor.

(Photo: Susanne Hammerschmid)

Females also mate with unhealthy males

Sarah Zala and Dustin Penn investigated whether females would also choose to mate with healthy over infected male if given a choice. In the laboratory and in large enclosures, the females were allowed to freely choose between two males, one healthy and another challenged with a mild infection, which they previously found to alter male odour.

The majority of females, about 86 percent, were initially more attracted to the healthy males. However, unhealthy males were also chosen as mating partners. “That surprised us. We assumed that the females would opt for the healthy males. Not only would this minimise the chance of becoming infected themselves, but choosing a healthy, disease-resistant partner would also be advantageous for their offspring,” first author Zala explains.

Polyandry not unusual for female mice

A genetic analysis of the offspring revealed that about 30 percent of the litters had two fathers, the healthy male and the unhealthy one.
“Many females apparently mate with both males, whether these are healthy or not,” Zala says. “We suspect that the females do this to protect their young. A male that was rejected as a mating partner may commit infanticide in order to get another chance at siring offspring.”

“The females recognise whether males are healthy or unhealthy. We saw this quite clearly. But why they still mate with the unhealthy male remains unclear,” says Dustin Penn.

In the future, Zala and Penn intend to study more closely the effect of an infection on the odour of the animals.

Odour preference seems irrelevant for mate choice

“Until now, scientists generally assumed that females choose their mates depending on their males’ scent or other secondary sexual traits. Our study shows that this isn’t necessarily the case,” says Zala. The situation could be different in the wild. As females recognise healthy males quite well based on odour, and are more attracted to them, they may be more likely to find healthy males in the wild. In the end, odour preference could still be an important factor determining sexual selection.

The article „Female house mice initially shun infected males, but do not avoid mating with them”, by Sarah M. Zala, Amber Bilak, Michael Perkins, Wayne K. Potts and Dustin J. Penn was published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. DOI 10.1007/s00265-015-1884-2

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms.

Scientific Contact:
Sarah Zala, PhD
Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-7352

Released by:
Susanna Kautschitsch
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153

Weitere Informationen:

Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Ethology Veterinary Veterinary Medicine Vetmeduni females healthy

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>