Posted: March 21, 2006
Scientists discover female mice consistently choose mated males over unexperienced single males
Choosing a mate is a big decision. And, at least for mice, it’s one that is best made with input from one’s peers.
In a series of experiments designed to help scientists understand the brain chemicals that guide mate selection, Don Pfaff and his colleagues exposed female mice to the odor of either a male mouse alone or a male mouse with a female. The females consistently preferred the scent of males linked to other females.
“Our data suggest that female mice may use, or even copy, the interests of other females based on olfactory cues,” says Pfaff, who is head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior. “It could also be seen as a female trusting the mate choice of another female.”
That one female’s choice of mate could influence the choices of other females is well documented in birds and fish, but had not been documented for any mammalian species. Pfaff says that the female mice’s mate preference was so strong that they even preferred the combined male/female scent when it was tainted with the scent of infectious parasites, opting for that over the scent of a healthy lone male.
“Male odors can provide female mice with information on their quality, condition, health and suitability as a potential mate,” says Pfaff.