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Data from: Protein pheromone expression levels predict and respond to the formation of social dominance networks


Nelson, Adam C.; Cunningham, Christopher B.; Ruff, James S.; Potts, Wayne K. (2015), Data from: Protein pheromone expression levels predict and respond to the formation of social dominance networks, Dryad, Dataset,


Communication signals are key regulators of social networks and are thought to be under selective pressure to honestly reflect social status, including dominance status. The odours of dominants and nondominants differentially influence behaviour, and identification of the specific pheromones associated with, and predictive of, dominance status is essential for understanding the mechanisms of network formation and maintenance. In mice, major urinary proteins (MUPs) are excreted in extraordinary large quantities and expression level has been hypothesized to provide an honest signal of dominance status. Here, we evaluate whether MUPs are associated with dominance in wild-derived mice by analysing expression levels before, during and after competition for reproductive resources over 3 days. During competition, dominant males have 24% greater urinary MUP expression than nondominants. The MUP darcin, a pheromone that stimulates female attraction, is predictive of dominance status: dominant males have higher darcin expression before competition. Dominants also have a higher ratio of darcin to other MUPs before and during competition. These differences appear transient, because there are no differences in MUPs or darcin after competition. We also find MUP expression is affected by sire dominance status: socially naive sons of dominant males have lower MUP expression, but this apparent repression is released during competition. A requisite condition for the evolution of communication signals is honesty, and we provide novel insight into pheromones and social networks by showing that MUP and darcin expression is a reliable signal of dominance status, a primary determinant of male fitness in many species.

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