Promiscuous mouse moms bear sexier sons

Mate competition pays off for the next generation. Biologists at the University of Utah found that female mice that compete for partners in an open environment produce sons with sexier pheromones.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that male mice whose parents competed for mates in an open area produced 31 percent more major urinary proteins, also known as pheromones, than male mice born from caged parents.

But the sexiness comes at a price. The same sons who released better pheromones also died younger. Only 48 percent lived to the completion of the experiment compared to 80 percent of the male mice born from caged parents. This may be because producing pheromones within the urine takes more energy.

Scientists are beginning to find that the health and lifespan of mice depend not only on their parents’ genes but also on epigenetics, meaning how their parents’ environment modified their offspring’s genes.

These findings may help with breeding endangered species in captivity.

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