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Data from: Wake up and smell the conflict: odour signals in female competition

Cite this dataset

Stockley, Paula; Bottell, Lisa; Hurst, Jane L. (2014). Data from: Wake up and smell the conflict: odour signals in female competition [Dataset]. Dryad.


Odour signals used in competitive and aggressive interactions between males are well studied in the context of sexual selection. By contrast, relatively little is known about comparable signals used by females, despite current interest in the evolution of female ornaments and weaponry. Available evidence suggests that odour signals are important in competitive interactions between female mammals, with reductions or reversals of male-biased sexual dimorphism in signalling where female competition is intense. Scent marking is often associated with conflict between females over access to resources or reproductive opportunities. Female scent marks may therefore provide reliable signals of competitive ability that could be used both by competitors and potential mates. Consistent with this hypothesis, we report that aggressive behaviour of female house mice is correlated with the amount of major urinary protein (MUP) excreted in their urine, a polymorphic set of proteins that are used in scent mark signalling. Under semi-natural conditions, females with high MUP output are more likely to produce offspring sired by males that have high reproductive success, and less likely to produce offspring by multiple different sires, suggesting that females with strong MUP signals are monopolized by males of particularly high quality. We conclude that odour signals are worthy of more detailed investigation as mediators of female competition.

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