Mate choice screening in captive solitary carnivores: the role of male behavior and cues on mate preference and paternity in females of a model species, American mink (Neovison vison)

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Mate choice studies suggest that choosy females benefit from increased fecundity, litter size, and offspring survival. Thus, providing females with the opportunity to choose among potential mates, deemed genetically suitable based on studbook data, might improve breeding management in production and zoo animals and thereby the sustainability of captive populations. Investigating mate preference via odor from potential mates before animal transfer is a proposed strategy for incorporating mate choice into breeding management. In this study, we test whether olfactory cues and signals from males can be used to assess and measure female mate preference in American mink. Eighteen females were subjected to a 4-day stimulus test in which females showed a preference for one of two males’ urine and feces. Subsequently, each female was subjected to a 10-day mate preference test involving the same two males of the first test. Paternity tests revealed that 13 females had offspring, which could be assigned to only one male, suggesting that these females performed a mate choice. In nine of these females preference during the stimulus test was directed toward the male that fathered their offspring. Our results suggest that even though there was a preference difference in scent stimulus trials from potential mates this preference was not predictive of eventual mate preference or paternity. Other factors such as aspects of male behavior seem to play a role, when the mates are introduced. Our study supports that mate preference and mate choice are complex matters influenced by multiple cues and signals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)367-381
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

    Research areas

  • American mink, breeding success, mate choice, mate preference, olfaction

ID: 188363522