The background of my research focuses on the intricate factors that shape the mating patterns of wild mice. One significant aspect is sexual imprinting, which refers to the acquisition of mate preferences during the neonatal period. Positive imprinting occurs when individuals develop preferences based on parental traits, while negative imprinting involves the avoidance of mating with kin-resembling individuals. This negative imprinting, also known as kin recognition, is crucial for avoiding inbreeding, where mating with closely related individuals is undesirable. Previous studies with female laboratory mice have revealed a preference for the odor and vocalizations of male mice from different strains, which was influenced by their exposure to their paternal figures during early life. Alongside sexual imprinting, social status, particularly dominance, plays a vital role in shaping mate preferences. Dominant individuals, who hold higher social ranks, enjoy greater reproductive success and establish and defend territories for resource access and successful reproduction. Conversely, subordinate individuals experience lower social ranks and limited privileges. The interplay between sexual imprinting, kin recognition, and dominance adds a layer of complexity to the mate preferences of wild mice.
The aim of this research project was to investigate the mating patterns of female mice and examine the influence of paternal exposure on inbreeding avoidance. The specific objectives were as follows:
- To determine if female mice demonstrate inbreeding avoidance by avoiding mating with close relatives.
- To assess whether females reared with their father (paternal exposure) are less likely to mate with kin compared to females reared without their father.
- To test the assumption that paternal exposure has no influence on female social status or reproductive success.