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Data from: No speed dating please! Patterns of social preference in male and female house mice

Cite this dataset

Linnenbrink, Miriam; von Merten, Sophie (2018). Data from: No speed dating please! Patterns of social preference in male and female house mice [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background: In many animal species, interactions between individuals of different sex often occur in the context of courtship and mating. During these interactions, a specific mating partner can be chosen. By discriminating potential mates according to specific characteristics, individuals can increase their evolutionary fitness in terms of reproduction and offspring survival. In this study, we monitored the partner preference behaviour of female and male wild house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) from populations in Germany (G) and France (F) in a controlled cage setup for 5 days and six nights. We analysed the effects of individual factors (e.g. population origin and sex) on the strength of preference (selectivity), as well as dyadic factors (e.g. neutral genetic distance and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) dissimilarity) that direct partner preferences. Results: Selectivity was stronger in mice with a pure population background than mixed individuals. Furthermore, female mice with a father from the German population had stronger selectivity than other mice. In this group, we found a preference for partners with a larger dissimilarity of their father’s and their partner’s MHC, as assessed by sequencing the H2-Eß locus. In all mice, selectivity followed a clear temporal pattern: it was low in the beginning and reached its maximum only after a whole day in the experiment. After two days, mice seemed to have chosen their preferred partner, as this choice was stable for the remaining four days in the experiment. Conclusions: Our study supports earlier findings that mate choice behaviour in wild mice can be paternally influenced. In our study, preference seems to be potentially associated with paternal MHC distance. To explain this, we propose familial imprinting as the most probable process for information transfer from father to offspring during the offspring’s early phase of life, which possibly influences its future partner preferences. Furthermore, our experiments show that preferences can change after the first day of encounter, which implies that extended observation times might be required to obtain results that allow a valid ecological interpretation.

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