Genetic mediation of infanticide and parental behavior in male and female domestic and wild stock house mice

Behav Genet. 1993 Nov;23(6):525-31. doi: 10.1007/BF01068143.


Infanticide is a reproductive strategy found in many mammals, especially rodents. The proportion of male and female house mice (Mus domesticus) that are either infanticidal or noninfanticidal is strain specific and varies widely from stock to stock. Male house mice also show strain-specific variation in the behavioral mechanisms that inhibit infanticidal individuals from killing their own offspring. The adult offspring generated from reciprocally crossed CF-1 and Wild stock house mice were tested for their behavior toward newborn pups. In male CF-1 x Wild hybrids, the proportion of infanticidal and noninfanticidal males matched with their maternal phenotype, whereas female CF-1 x Wild hybrids exhibited a proportion of behaviors typical of the CF-1 phenotype, regardless of their mother's genotype. Our results suggest three conclusions: first, that infanticide is a highly labile and heritable behavior in both sexes; second, that there is a sex difference in the genetic substrate that regulates the inheritance of infanticidal behavior; and third, that selection pressures in male mice may operate independently on the mechanisms that promote spontaneous infanticidal behavior versus the mechanisms that inhibit infanticide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agonistic Behavior
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Animals, Wild / genetics*
  • Female
  • Hybridization, Genetic / genetics
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mice / genetics*
  • Paternal Behavior*
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Species Specificity