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Mouse mothers induce parenting behaviors in fathers with ultra-sonic noises

Date:
February 25, 2013
Source:
Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation, Kanazawa University
Summary:
Researchers have demonstrated the existence of communicative signalling from female mice that induces male parental behavior.

The parental care test in ICR mice. Schematic representations of the parental care test in a mated pair isolated in an old (b–d) or new (n–p) cage. After cohabiting with their pups as a family unit (a), the parents were separated from the pups for 10min (b–e) and then reunited with ve pups (f–i). Subsequent pup retrieval behaviour was then observed (j–m), and the number of family members (new sire or dam) showing retrieval was scored and expressed as a percentage in (z) (one trial per mouse). In (a–m), the pups were placed in a new holding box (e, yellow), and the parents remained in the old box (b–d, grey) during the separation period (nΌ35 families each). The number on the right indicates the sires or dams with retrieval out of subjects tested. In (a,n–y), the pups remained in the old cage (q, grey), while the parents (separately or together) were placed in new isolation boxes (n–p, yellow; nΌ40 families each). The number on the right indicates sires or dams with retrieval out of subjects tested.
Credit: Image courtesy of Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation, Kanazawa University

Researchers at Japan's Kanazawa University have demonstrated the existence of communicative signalling from female mice that induces male parental behaviour. This research is also described in the February issue of the Kanazawa University Research Bulletin.

Most mammalian parents use communicative signals between the sexes, but it is uncertain whether such signals affect the levels of parental care in fathers. Scientists have long suspected that female mice play a definite role in encouraging paternal relationships between male mice and their pups.

Now, a research team at Kanazawa University led by Haruhiro Higashida in collaboration with scientists across Japan, Russia and the UK, have proven the existence of auditory and olfactory (smell) signals produced by females which actively trigger paternal activity in males.

Higashida and his team conducted a series of experiments with females and males living in established family groups. Pups were removed from the cage for a short time, while one or both parents remained in the nest. The pups were then returned to the cage, away from the nest. Lone females nearly always brought the pups back to the nest, but lone males were less likely to do so.

Most interestingly, the researchers showed that males were much more likely to retrieve pups when they remained with their mate. This behaviour may be related to ultra-sonic noises emitted by females under stress. These sounds are not emitted by males, pups or non-parental females, and they encouraged the males into parental behaviours. The females also released olfactory signals in the form of pheromones, which triggered the same reaction in the males.

Higashida and his team are keen to expand on their results by analyzing neural signalling in the male brain in response to these female communications.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation, Kanazawa University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hong-Xiang Liu, Olga Lopatina, Chiharu Higashida, Hiroko Fujimoto, Shirin Akther, Alena Inzhutova, Mingkun Liang, Jing Zhong, Takahiro Tsuji, Toru Yoshihara, Kohei Sumi, Mizuho Ishiyama, Wen-Jie Ma, Mitsunori Ozaki, Satoshi Yagitani, Shigeru Yokoyama, Naofumi Mukaida, Takeshi Sakurai, Osamu Hori, Katsuji Yoshioka, Atsushi Hirao, Yukio Kato, Katsuhiko Ishihara, Ichiro Kato, Hiroshi Okamoto, Stanislav M. Cherepanov, Alla B. Salmina, Hirokazu Hirai, Masahide Asano, David A. Brown, Isamu Nagano, Haruhiro Higashida. Displays of paternal mouse pup retrieval following communicative interaction with maternal mates. Nature Communications, 2013; 4: 1346 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2336

Cite This Page:

Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation, Kanazawa University. "Mouse mothers induce parenting behaviors in fathers with ultra-sonic noises." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130225102141.htm>.
Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation, Kanazawa University. (2013, February 25). Mouse mothers induce parenting behaviors in fathers with ultra-sonic noises. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130225102141.htm
Organization of Frontier Science and Innovation, Kanazawa University. "Mouse mothers induce parenting behaviors in fathers with ultra-sonic noises." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130225102141.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

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