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Familiarity Breeds Contempt: Exotic Songs Attract Female Mice

Update Date: Feb 05, 2014 05:37 PM EST

Familiarity really does breed contempt, according to a mouse study. Japanese scientists found that female mice prefer unfamiliar male songs when selecting a mate.

New research shows that female mice are more attracted to songs of mice that are different from their parents when choosing partners. Researchers believe these preferences are shaped by early social experiences with their fathers.

Previous studies reveal that many animals learn the characteristics of desirable mate when they are young to gain the ability to recognize and avoid mating with close relatives.

The latest study wanted understand whether female mice can learn, remember and prefer specific male mating song characteristics. Male mice produce ultrasonic vocalizations or songs when they encounter females.

In the study, female mice were raised with their biological father, a different father or no father. Researchers then recorded vocalizations or songs from four male mice, one of which was a close relative. The female mice were then left in a cage with sections containing the male songs, as well as their sexual scents. Researchers then monitored the time each female searched before making a mate selection.

The findings revealed that mice demonstrated an innate preference for male songs from different families. Researchers noted that this preference was affected by the female's reproductive cycle and scent-based sexual cues from the male.

Surprising, female mice raised by non-biological fathers also preferred songs from other families. However, no preference occurred in mice raised with no father. Researchers said the findings suggest that song preferences indicate a possible leaned behavior through exposure to father's song.

Scientists said the latest study is one of the first in mammals to suggest that male song contribute to kin recognition and female mate choice by preventing inbreeding.

The findings are published by the journal PLoS ONE

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