Male mice adjust courtship behavior in response to female multimodal signals

PLoS One. 2020 Apr 2;15(4):e0229302. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229302. eCollection 2020.


Multimodal signaling is nearly ubiquitous across animal taxa. While much research has focused on male signal production contributing to female mate-choice or preferences, females often give their own multimodal signals during intersexual communication events. Multimodal signal components are often classified based on whether they contain redundant information (e.g., the backup hypothesis) or non-redundant information (e.g., the multiple messages hypothesis) from the perspective of the receiver. We investigated the role of two different female vocalizations produced by the female house mouse (Mus musculus): the broadband, relatively low-frequency squeaks (broadband vocalizations or BBVs,), and the higher-frequency ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). These female vocalizations may convey differently valenced information to the male receivers. We paired these vocalizations with and without female urine to examine the influence of combining information across multiple modalities. We found evidence that female urine and vocalizations act as non-redundant multimodal cues as males responded with different behaviors and vocalization rates depending on the female signal presented. Additionally, male mice responded with greater courtship effort to the multimodal combination of female USVs paired with female urine than any other signal combination. These results suggest that the olfactory information contained in female urine provides the context by which males can then evaluate potentially ambiguous female vocalizations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Copulation / physiology
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mating Preference, Animal / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Ultrasonic Waves
  • Urination / physiology
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*