Female mice ultrasonically interact with males during courtship displays

Elife. 2015 May 28:4:e06203. doi: 10.7554/eLife.06203.


During courtship males attract females with elaborate behaviors. In mice, these displays include ultrasonic vocalizations. Ultrasonic courtship vocalizations were previously attributed to the courting male, despite evidence that both sexes produce virtually indistinguishable vocalizations. Because of this similarity, and the difficulty of assigning vocalizations to individuals, the vocal contribution of each individual during courtship is unknown. To address this question, we developed a microphone array system to localize vocalizations from socially interacting, individual adult mice. With this system, we show that female mice vocally interact with males during courtship. Males and females jointly increased their vocalization rates during chases. Furthermore, a female's participation in these vocal interactions may function as a signal that indicates a state of increased receptivity. Our results reveal a novel form of vocal communication during mouse courtship, and lay the groundwork for a mechanistic dissection of communication during social behavior.

Keywords: courtship; mouse; neuroscience; positional tracking; social behavior; sound source localization; ultrasonic vocalizations; vocal communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Ultrasonics / instrumentation*
  • Ultrasonics / methods*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*