Mice mothers inspire mice fathers to take care of their children

Researchers have found that mice mothers not only take care of their kids but also force mouse fathers to care of them.

This research has been published online in the journal Nature Communications.

This research would remind you of the movie “Stuart Little” or “Chicken Run”; talking mice, and you would say “What is this?” or “Fact is stranger than fiction” etc.

Mouse Family (Credit: magw21/Flickr)

Researchers have found that female mouse encourages the father, who most often remain outside of the house, of their kids to take care and get involved in them. Mother mouse usually does this by the combination of ultrasonic voices and odorous signals.

In the lab, researchers have observed that the male mice usually ignore their offspring for the first 3 to 5 days but finally start showing signs of parental care. In order to confirm whether the male mice were inspired by their kids or female counterparts, researchers separated fathers from their families and place them either alone or with their female counterparts for 3, 5 and 10 minutes in separate chambers. Researchers found that the fathers, who were placed with females, took active part in parenting after reuniting with their pups while the other lonely male mice liked to live as a bachelor and showed preference to return to their empty chambers.

Researchers further confirmed the role of the female mice in encouraging the male mice by placing them in sound proof/smell proof boxes and in boxes with open lid. They found that the male mice ignored their offspring in the former case.

Researchers used ultrasound recordings of females and found 60% males showed parental behavior. They found that 55% of males showed parental behavior with maternal pheromones. When those sounds and smells were combined 67% of the males responded. Moreover, deaf and smell-blind males didn’t respond to the female’s signals.

“The study presents remarkable results,” Günter Ehret, a neurobiologist at the University of Ulm in Germany, said in a statement to The Scientist. “[It] indicates that a certain type of ultrasound and/or odor of mothers increase the father’s motivation for paternal care. It seems as if the mother communicates her fear because of the loss of her children to the father to make him attentive and motivated to be a good father and carry the children back in case he finds them by accident.”

This research also hypothesizes the same behavior in other animals.


Liu, H., Lopatina, O., Higashida, C., Fujimoto, H., Akther, S., Inzhutova, A., Liang, M., Zhong, J., Tsuji, T., Yoshihara, T., Sumi, K., Ishiyama, M., Ma, W., Ozaki, M., Yagitani, S., Yokoyama, S., Mukaida, N., Sakurai, T., Hori, O., Yoshioka, K., Hirao, A., Kato, Y., Ishihara, K., Kato, I., Okamoto, H., Cherepanov, S., Salmina, A., Hirai, H., Asano, M., Brown, D., Nagano, I., & Higashida, H. (2013). Displays of paternal mouse pup retrieval following communicative interaction with maternal mates Nature Communications, 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2336


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