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Horm Behav. 2002 Mar;41(2):213-9.

Sex difference in attraction thresholds for volatile odors from male and estrous female mouse urine.

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Subdepartment of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB3 8AA, United Kingdom.


Volatile urinary odors from opposite sex conspecifics contribute to mate recognition in numerous mammalian species, including mice. We used a simple habituation/dishabituation testing procedure to ask whether the capacity to detect and investigate decreasing concentrations of volatile urinary odors is sexually differentiated in mice. Beginning 2 months after gonadectomy and in the absence of any sex steroid treatment, adult, sexually naive male and female CBA x C57Bl/6 F1 hybrid mice received two series of daily tests that involved the presentation of different dilutions of urine from C57Bl/6 males followed by urine from estrous females. Each test session began with three consecutive presentations of deionized water (10 microl on filter paper for 2 min, behind a mesh barrier which prevented direct physical access, in the home cage at 1-min intervals) followed by three presentations of one of five different dilutions of urine (a different dilution on each test day). Males and females showed equivalent, significant habituation/dishabituation responses (low investigation times for successive water presentations; increased investigation of the first urine stimulus, followed by a decline in successive urine investigation times) to both male and female urine/water dilutions of 1:1, 1:10, and 1:20. However, only female mice responded reliably to 1:40 and 1:80 dilutions of both types of urine, pointing to a sex dimorphism in the detection and/or processing of biologically relevant, volatile urinary odors by the main olfactory system.

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