Promiscuous Mice Moms Bear Super-Sexy Sons

BY Robert Lamb / POSTED November 18, 2013
(Illustration by Sarah Bush, University of Utah) (Sarah Bush, University of Utah)

Are you doomed to a short, sex-crazed life just because mom played the field when she was younger?

If you’re a mouse, then yes.

In a new study from the University of Utah, mother mice who competed for mates in a promiscuous environment went on to have “sexier” sons. I know what you’re wondering: What constitutes a sexy male mouse? Well, as mice frolic in a world of pheromones, the sexy male mice are the ones pumping out 31 percent more of those irresistible major urinary proteins.

In a separate study, the researchers also found that these super-sexy mice also lived shorter lives due to the energy required to produce all those sex pheromones. Only 48 percent of the sexy lads lived to the end of the experiment, compared with 80 percent of those whose parents lived monogamous lives.

It all makes for another amazing example of epigenetics at work, the environment-dictated activation of deactivation of specific genetic traits. For more info on this topic, be sure to check out our “Ghost in the Genetic Machine” podcast episodes on animals and humans.


About the author: Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.

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