Phenotypic Variability Between Social Dominance Ranks in Laboratory Mice

Sci Rep. 2018 Apr 26;8(1):6593. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-24624-4.


The laboratory mouse is the most prevalent animal used in experimental procedures in the biomedical and behavioural sciences. Yet, many scientists fail to consider the animals' social context. Within a cage, mice may differ in their behaviour and physiology depending on their dominance relationships. Therefore, dominance relationships may be a confounding factor in animal experiments. The current study housed male and female C57BL/6ByJ mice in same-sex groups of 5 in standard laboratory conditions and investigated whether dominance hierarchies were present and stable across three weeks, and whether mice of different dominance ranks varied consistently in behaviour and physiology. We found that dominance ranks of most mice changed with time, but were most stable between the 2nd and 3rd week of testing. Phenotypic measures were also highly variable, and we found no relation between dominance rank and phenotype. Further, we found limited evidence that variation in measures of phenotype was associated with cage assignment for either males or females. Taken together, these findings do not lend support to the general assumption that individual variation among mice is larger between cages than within cages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Variation, Population*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maze Learning
  • Mice
  • Phenotype*
  • Social Dominance*


  • Glucocorticoids