Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Female Mammals Follow Their Noses To The Right Mates

Date:
March 20, 2009
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Historically, most examples of female mate choice and its evolutionary consequences are found in birds. But that doesn't mean mammals aren't just as choosy, researchers say. It just means that mammal mate preferences may be harder to spot.

Female birds often choose their mates based on fancy feathers. Female mammals, on the other hand, may be more likely to follow their noses to the right mate.

Related Articles


That's one conclusion of Cambridge zoologist Tim Clutton-Brock and Harvard researcher Katherine McAuliffe, whose review of evidence for female mate choice is published in the March 2009 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology.

Historically, most examples of female mate choice and its evolutionary consequences are found in birds. The classic case is the peacock's tail. The ornate tails do nothing to help peacocks survive. Rather, they emerged because peahens prefer to mate with males that have showy plumage.

Such vivid examples of female preferences in mammals are harder to find, leading to an assumption that mate choice plays a smaller role in mammals than in birds. But that's not necessarily the case, Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe conclude. Female mating preferences are likely to be just as important in mammals, though they may not be as obvious to human observers.

The researchers point out several factors that complicate the study of mammalian mate choice. One factor is the very nature of mammalian mating systems. Males compete fiercely with each other for access to female partners. Since the dominant males often chase away other males, it's hard to tell if females are choosing to mate with certain males, or are merely mating with them by default.

"The most convincing evidence for female mate choice in mammals comes from studies of captive mammals …carried out under controlled conditions where the effects of male competition can be excluded …," Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe write.

Lab studies of olfactory signaling, they say, may provide the best evidence for female mate choice in mammals. Unlike birds, many mammal species are sexually active at night. So mammals may be less inclined than birds to base preferences on visual cues. Instead, females of many mammalian species may be more likely to choose males using olfactory cues.

Research has shown that female mammals commonly investigate scent marks left by males. Females also show a preference to mate with males who scent mark more frequently.

Just what can a female learn about a male through his scent? Plenty, say Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe.

Recent studies have shown that mammalian females use scent to pick out genetically dissimilar males. Parents with dissimilar genes in a certain part of the genome tend to produce healthier offspring. So male mammals advertise their genotype via scent, and females pick up the signal and preferentially mate with dissimilar males. This ability to sniff out a good genetic match has been found in mice and humans.

Other studies of several rodent species have found that females dislike odors of males who are infected with parasites, and may avoid mating with them. Since resistance to parasites is often a genetic trait, choosing a parasite-free mate may be beneficial to offspring.

Study of olfactory mating cues is still in its infancy, Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe say. But they believe that this line of research will continue to reveal much about mammalian mate choice.

"[I]t is possible that in some mammals, males produce olfactory signals that match the elaboration and complexity of the peacock's tail … or the sedge warbler's song …," Clutton-Brock and McAuliffe write.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tim Clutton-Brock and Katherine McAuliffe. Female Mate Choice in Mammals. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 2009; 84 (1): 3-27 DOI: 10.1086/596461

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Female Mammals Follow Their Noses To The Right Mates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090317153045.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2009, March 20). Female Mammals Follow Their Noses To The Right Mates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090317153045.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Female Mammals Follow Their Noses To The Right Mates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090317153045.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

AFP (Nov. 25, 2014) Phnom Penh's only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins