Microsatellite analysis reveals that female mice are indiscriminate when choosing infected or dominant males in an arena setting
Considering that both infection and dominance status can be conveyed through urinary odours and both are thought to affect mate choice, the present study assessed the role of infection and male dominance status on female mate choice in arena enclosures. Three male CD-1 mice were simultaneously introduced into each of 4 spatially complex arenas (3·0×0·6×0·4 m high) for 24 h prior to introduction of 5 females into each arena. During the first mating sequence (i.e. Mating 1), all 3 males were uninfected. Prior to Mating 2, the dominant male in each arena was infected with 200 L3 of Heligmosomoides polygyrus (Nematoda). Prior to Mating 3, the dominant male was drug-treated to remove the parasite. Dominance was assessed by the absence of rump or tail wounds (Freeland, 1981). Females were removed from the arena when visibly pregnant, and returned for subsequent mating 2 weeks following parturition. Paternity was determined by microsatellite analysis of each pup. Multi-male mating (i.e. mating with 2 or all 3 males) was a common strategy among females as littermates were sired by 2 or all 3 males in 64% of the litters. Contrary to expectation, the dominant male did not sire the majority of offspring in any of the mating sequences, and infection and subsequent drug treatment of the dominant male did not have a significant impact on female mate choice. In addition to methodological differences in paternity determination (i.e. DNA analysis versus behavioural observations and/or phenotypic traits), these findings may be further explained by the spatial complexity of the experimental arenas.