Navigation Links
Female mammals follow their noses to the right mates

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. 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.


Contact: Kevin Stacey
University of Chicago Press Journals

Related biology news :

1. Sex is thirst-quenching for female beetles
2. UT Southwestern researchers identify hundreds of genes controlling female fertility
3. Why do males and females frequently differ in body size and structure?
4. X-effect: female chromosome confirmed a prime driver of speciation
5. Vaginal reconstruction not needed for most inter-sex females, Hopkins study shows
6. Gene in male fish lures females into sex
7. New evidence for female control in reproduction
8. Men unaware of their cancer risk when female relatives test positive for BRCA mutation
9. How do you know whether you are male or female?
10. Female katydids prefer mates cool in winter and hot in summer
11. Female concave-eared frogs draw mates with ultrasonic calls
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/20/2016)... , June 20, 2016 Securus Technologies, ... technology solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections and ... prisons involved, it has secured the final acceptance ... facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) installed. Furthermore, ... facilities to be installed by October, 2016. MAS ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... Paris Police Prefecture and ... ensure the safety of people and operations in several locations ... Teleste, an international technology group specialised in broadband ... its video security solution will be utilised by ... across the country. The system roll-out is scheduled for the ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016   The Weather Company , ... Watson Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers will be ... able to ask questions via voice or text and receive ... Marketers have long sought an advertising ... that can be personal, relevant and valuable; and can scale ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook ... Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as their official ... Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic ... with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   ... it has secured $1 million in debt financing from ... to ramp up automation and to advance its drug ... for its new facility. "SVB has been ... goes beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. today ... trials of its complement C3 inhibitor, APL-2. The ... ascending dose studies designed to assess the safety, ... injection in healthy adult volunteers. Forty ... a single dose (ranging from 45 to 1,440mg) ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... the Pennsylvania Convention Center and will showcase its product’s latest features from June ... be presenting a scientific poster on Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during ...
Breaking Biology Technology: