Promiscuous Mice Moms Bear Super-Sexy Sons

(Illustration by 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 spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.