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Genotypic sex shapes maternal care in the African Pygmy mouse, Mus minutoides

Cite this dataset

Heitzmann, Louise et al. (2023). Genotypic sex shapes maternal care in the African Pygmy mouse, Mus minutoides [Dataset]. Dryad.


Sexually dimorphic behaviours, such as parental care, have long been thought to be mainly driven by gonadal hormones. In the past two decades, a few studies have challenged this view, highlighting the direct influence of the sex chromosome complement (XX vs XY or ZZ vs ZW). The African pygmy mouse, Mus minutoides, is a wild mouse species with naturally occurring XY sex reversal induced by a third, feminizing X* chromosome, leading to three female genotypes: XX, XX* and X*Y. Here, we show that sex reversal in X*Y females shapes a divergent maternal care strategy (maternal aggression, pup retrieval and nesting behaviours) from both XX and XX* females. Although neuroanatomical investigations were inconclusive, we show that the dopaminergic system in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus is worth investigating further as it may support differences in pup retrieval behaviour between females. Combining behaviours and neurobiology in a rodent subject to natural selection, we evaluate potential candidates for the neural basis of maternal behaviours and strengthen the underestimated role of the sex chromosomes in shaping sex differences in brain and behaviours. All things considered, we further highlight the emergence of a third sexual phenotype, challenging the binary view of phenotypic sexes.