The White-footed Mouse

Peromyscus leucopus

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Are white-footed mice monogamous species?

What factors affect a wood mouses mating habits?

White-footed mice live in the trees of deciduous forests. They are very common, but nocternal, so you are unlikely to see them very often. Dr. Stephen Vessey has been studying wood mice in a small wooded plot of land called Carter Woods near Bowling Green State University for many years. At the time I studied under Dr. Vessey's guidance, it was unclear if socially-bonded male and female pairs were faithful to one another or not. We collected tissue samples from mothers, fathers, and babies for two years to conduct a paternity analysis on the young.

I adapted what at the time was the recently discovered techinque of DNA fingerprinting for use on wood mice. By DNA fingerprinting mother mice and their pups, and the social father who I captured in a nest, I was able to perform and exclusion analysis using multilocis, VNTR DNA fingerprinting techniques. I determined that pups from a single litter were often sired by multiple males. This demonstrated for the first time that female wood mice often mated with males outside of their social bond. Furthermore, we believe that a subset of males in the populations may be unpaired and sneak copulations from females who are already pair-bonded with a male.

Such decisions to become pair-bonded or roam may be a reflection of social status, sex ratios, and the available resources. Males may be making such decisions to pair-bond or roam based on what is the most likely behavior to obtain a copulation (fertilization) given their social status, how many females are avialable, and how much energy they have given the food resources available to mate and avoid predators. The question remaining, however, is why do females choose to mate with multiple males on occassion?

  • Schug, Malcolm D., Stephen H. Vessey, Eileen M. Underwood.  1992.  Paternal behavior in a natural population of Peromyscus leucopus.  American Midland Naturalist 127:373-380. 
  • Schug, Malcolm D., Eileen M. Underwood.  1991.  DNA fingerprints of wild white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus).  Fingerprint News 3(4): 14-16.
  • Schug, Malcolm D., Stephen H. Vessey, Andrew E. Korytko.  1991.  Longevity and survival in a population of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus).  Journal of Mammalogy 72(2): 360-366.